Printing is surely one of humanity’s greatest inventions, because the transition from manuscripts to printed texts led to a boom in education, enlightenment and culture. In the 17th century there were only a few places in Slovakia that could maintain such a complex and expensive thing as a printing press then was. Žilina was one of them. In the 16th and 17th centuries, Žilina was a relatively developed town with a grammar school whose teachers were well educated and active readers and writers. There must have been a strong demand for books, calendars and other printed matter for a printer to come here and flourish. The first to settle in Žilina was Ján Dadan sr., who arrived in 1665. He came from the family of Lukáš Dadan, a priest of the Church of Czech Brethren, who was exiled from Přerov and settled in Púchov in the Kingdom of Hungary together with other Czech and Moravian families persecuted after the Battle of White Mountain.
Ján Dadan sr., whose date of birth is unknown, married Alžbeta, the daughter of Pavol Vetterin (Wetterin). He bought a printing press from Nikodém Čižek of Trenčín in 1664 and transported it to Žilina for his son-in-law. Ján Dadan sr. began operating it in 1665. After his death in 1673 or 1674, his printing business was carried on by his wife Alžbeta and from 1685 by his son Ján Dadan jr. (1662–1704). It is not yet clear where their printshop was located. From the second half of the 19th century to the present, many people have taken over the error published by the Žilina historian Alexander Lombardini in his book “Žilinská kníhtlačiareň” (the Žilina printers). He located the Dadans’ printshop and home in the house on the corner of what are now Bottova and Radničná Streets, opposite the town hall. This mistake is based on a speech that Daniel Krman jr. gave at the burial of Ján Dadan jr. which was later published in book form. Although Ján Dadan had died in that house, he had been moved there to be cared for during his final illness, because his wife had died earlier and he had no children. More recent research has found that Ján Dadan jr. and his wife (a daughter of Žilina mayor Timotej Maluch) had purchased a house on the corner of today’s Sládkovičova and Dolný Val Streets (now 6 Sládkovičova), where they not only lived but also operated their printing press. The printshop continued to operate here after Dadan’s death until it was relocated to Púchov in 1717. The house passed down to the sister of Ján Dadan jr., Anna Chrastinová, who sold it to the head of the mason’s guild, Václav Adamica, in 1726. His descendants owned the house until 1922, when they sold it to a businessman, Jozef Better. The Better House, as it was known in Žilina, was used as a warehouse for a gardening shop until it was demolished in 1998. A mixed-use building has now been erected on the site.
The printing press was very important not just for Žilina but for all Slovakia, because they were very rare at that time. It was a means of spreading culture and education. The most common types of work printed were religious literature, Slovak and Hungarian textbooks, and non-specialist educational texts. Books were printed in Slovak, Latin, German, Greek, Hungarian and Hebrew.
When Ján Dadan jr. died on 06 July 1704, a wake was held at his house on the following day and he was then buried in the cemetery of the Church of St Stephen the King. It is thus interesting that the register of deaths kept by Daniel Krman jr. records a funeral for Dadan attended by much of Žilina’s Protestant community with many speeches and hymns on 03 August 1704. This should perhaps be understood as a public memorial service and an act of thanksgiving designed to strengthen Protestant spirits at a time when intensive efforts were being made to restore Catholicism in the town.
Source: Mgr. Peter Štanský and Milan Novák
It can be visited
■ exterior during a guided tour of TIO Žilina.
Position of the monument on the map: B4