This project has received funding from the Research Council of Lithuania (LMTLT), agreement No [S-LIP-18-43].

Short history of collecting and publishing proverbs and proverbial phrases

Lithuanian proverbs and proverbial phrases served as illustrative examples in religious texts, grammars, dictionaries, ethnographic descriptions in the 16th–18th centuries – the first period of collecting and publishing of Lithuanian proverbs and proverbial phrases. One or another traditional saying found its way into the Postillas by Jonas Bretkūnas and Mikalojus Daukša, “Punktai sakymų / Sermons” by Konstantinas Sirvydas. The sayings from these texts were recorded in the Card Index and finally into the LPP. Paremiologists take “The Dictionary of German-Lithuanian and Lithuanian-German” by Jokūbas Brodovskis as one of the most significant sources of the period. A great many examples of the usage of Lithuanian words is illustrated here by means of proverbs, phraseological phrases, riddles, notes on the customs and beliefs of Lithuanians. Proverbs and phraseological sayings take the biggest share in the dictionary. Only part of the manuscript survived, nevertheless, sayings collected by Brodovskis were spread in other publications (by Milkus, Neselman, Schleicher) and were recorded in works in the Greater Lithuania, namely, collections by Antanas Baranauskas, Laurynas Ivinskis.

An important stage of collecting and publishing Lithuanian proverbs and proverbial phrases is the 19th century when ideas of romanticism and national movement encouraged to regard peasant who preserved the Lithuanian language as the foundation of the nation and their culture, oral heritage as an expression of the uniqueness of the nation. Simonas Daukantas took proverbs as good examples of the language and wise instructions. He collected manuscript collections by other authors, published them, used in his own works. Kajetonas Nezbitauskis – a biographer, researcher of literature, historian – also published proverbs. His elementary book “New Education of Reading for the Little Children in Samogitia and Lithuania” (1824) contains 53 proverbs and proverbial phrases – this is the first batch of proverbs published in Vilnius. Laurynas Ivinskis published proverbs in his calendars since 1850 (in the beginning he used to rhyme traditional sayings, later gave the originals). After the tsarist government abolished using Latin letters, he tried to publish proverbs in calendars by using Cyrillic script. Vilius Kalvaitis – an activist in Minor Lithuania, collector of folklore, publisher – visited 90 parishes in Minor Lithuania in 1888-1894, put down folklore, personal names and published a book “A Little Granary of Lithuanian Names” – a collection of personal names, toponyms and short sayings –  in 1910. The first book of Lithuanian proverbs was published in the Polish language in Vilnius in 1840 by Liudvikas Jucevičius; it was titled “Proverbial Phrases of the Lithuanian Folk” (“Przysłowia ludu litewskiego“). The second collection of proverbs was Motiejus Valančius’ “Proverbs of Samogitians” (1867) which published 1300 texts. A large collection of proverbs “Przysłowia“ was owned by Antanas Baranauskas: while teaching the Lithuanian language in Kaunas Seminary for Priests in 1871-1880 he involved students of theology from various regions into collecting folklore.

In the beginning of the 20th century, after the Lithuanian press ban was abolished (1904), collections of famous collectors of folklore were stored in the archives of the Lithuanian Scientific Society. Many collections of proverbs and proverbial phrases were compiled by the members of intelligentsia, members of the Society, correspondents. The person of Eduardas Volteris deserves a special word as he started collecting and publishing proverbs and proverbial phrases following scientific principles. Volteris made great efforts to reveal dialectic peculiarities of the written texts, indicated the place of collecting and surnames of presenters.

During the years of the first independency of the Republic of Lithuania (1918-1940) the number of gathered proverbs much exceeded the number collected in previous three centuries. This period is of special significance in the history of collecting Lithuanian proverbs and proverbial phrases. Folklore of this genre, as well as other genres, was archived by the Folklore Commission at Kaunas University, Faculty of Humanities. The greatest collections were compiled by Vincas Krėvė-Mickevičius. By his name a collection series  “Proverbs and Proverbial Phrases” containing all the texts previously published and preserved in manuscripts was introduced.

In the beginning of the soviet times, during the WWII, collection of folklore almost ceased, little was carried out in the after-war period either. In those days, some soviet proverbs about kolkhoz, kulaks and others were constructed by imitating traditional Lithuanian proverbs. Collection, publishing and research of folklore began to recover in 1950s. Complex ethnographical and folkloristic field work expeditions were arranged; teachers, schoolchildren, students were encouraged to collect folklore. The movement of folklore and ethnographic ensembles considerably contributed to the collection and preservation of folklore in 1960s-1980s.

There have been no restrictions to collect or publish folklore after Lithuania regained its independence in 1990. The main collection of Lithuanian proverbs and proverbial phrases was started to be published by the initiative of Kazys Grigas (Vol. 1 in 2000; Vol. 2 in 2008; Vol. 3 in 2019).