The Labyrinth of the World exhibition, which is dedicated to the life, work and legacy of Ján Amos Comenius (1592 – 1670), is open until October 22, 2023 in the Literary Museum of the Slovak National Library. During his lifetime, the Czech philosopher and thinker was a prominent figure among European scholars.
The exhibition had been prepared by the Slovak National Library in cooperation with the Czech Center in Bratislava and the Embassy of the Czech Republic in Slovakia. It is named after the most famous literary work of Ján Amos: The Labyrinth of the World and the Paradise of the Heart.
After the Battle of White Mountain, the Czech nation went through difficult times – towns and villages had been destroyed, people had lost the roofs over their heads and were dying from hunger. The tragedy of the nation was connected with the personal tragedy of Ján Amos Comenius. He was forced to leave his home, his wife and two children died during the plague epidemic and his literary work was burned. He also had to choose between emigration and death. At the time of the greatest despair in 1623, Comenius wrote the document The Labyrinth of the World and the Paradise of the Heart. In the document, he responded to the problems of that time, but also to the human existence itself, to the vanity and misery.
In the first half of the 17th century the Comenius’ name was already known in Slovakia. His textbooks reached our territory and their ideas began to expand to our schools. However, his ideas had the greatest impact on the reform efforts of the philosophers and teachers of the Latin school of Prešov city – Ján Bayer, Izák Caban and Eliáš Ladiver Jr.
The exhibition is divided into three thematic parts. The first one, Comenius era, explains the historical and social conditions in Europe. It includes rare editions of old prints and remarkable book editions containing texts in the Slovak language of that time.
In the second part, Comenius is presented as a European, thinker, philosopher and scientist who came into contact with great personalities and thinkers of the 17th century. The exhibition’s book rarity is Bayl’s Dictionnaire historique et critique (1740), in which the author criticizes Comenius for his propensity for prophecies and revelations. This contributed to the fact that in the 18th century Comenius was labeled as “persona non grata”.
The third part of the exhibition is dedicated to the responses to Comenius in Slovakia. It includes literary works of the Comenius’ students – Ján Bayer, Izák Caban and Eliáš Ladiver Jr., literary view of the teacher of nations by Ján Kollár and the first editions of Comenius’ works in Slovak language.
The literary works of Ján Amos Comenius are also available in the new Digital Library of the Slovak National Library – dikda.snk.sk.
Pavol Máťuš (exhibition curator)