The theme of 2012’s World Book and Copyright Day is books in translation. This year is the 80th anniversary of the Index Translationem, a global database of books in translation maintained by UNESCO. You can look up some interesting statistics on the website, such as the 50 most-translated authors (Agatha Christie is #1!), or the top 50 target languages (German, French and Spanish are the top 3). English is the most-translated original language, and Latin and Ancient Greek were 10th and 12th, respectively, ahead of languages like Chinese, Arabic, and Portuguese. People still want to read the classics, it seems!
The World Book Capital chosen by UNESCO this year is Yerevan, Armenia. It’s a good choice because writing and books, along with faith, have been a matter of survival for Armenians. Located on the crossroads of empires, Armenia has been subject to invasions and conquests for millennia. In the year 405, the Armenian monk Mesrop Mashtots saw that the only way to prevent his people from being assimilated, as so many others had been, was to preserve their language with its own alphabet. The Armenian alphabet he created is truly beautiful, and Mashtots is regarded as a saint by Armenians.
As a result of all those conquests, the Armenian diaspora is large and everywhere they went they set up publishing houses, beginning in Venice exactly 500 years ago. That was also a time of invasion and Armenian publishers felt that printing books was the way to preserve their culture. Indeed from 1512 to 1918, Armenia as a country did not exist, and yet 20,000 books in Armenian were published. Five centuries of perseverance paid off in 1990 when Armenia declared independence from the USSR. One can only hope that Armenians will now have many years of peace in which to enjoy their books!