History of Split is marked by Diocletian and his Palace, but centuries brought so much more. After all, history of some place is not only a tale about big events, or architectural endeavours, but maybe even more about its daily life. For example, one of my favourite stories from the Split past is the one about Vid Morpurgo and his bookstore, still standing at central square, Narodni trg or simply Pjaca (Piazza).
Number inscribed on top of green wooden door says it all. This bookstore was founded in 1860, at this very same address, which makes her the third oldest still operating in Europe. As far as I know, the only two older bookstores still opened in Europe are Livraria Bertrand founded at today's location in Lisbon, Portugal in 1773, and Galignani in Paris, France, opened in 1856.
Besides being a witness of city's cultural history, it's also an important episode in much bigger story - of Split Jewish community.
Morpurgo was founded by and bears name of one of the most prominent people in Split history, publisher, industrial pioneer and culture promoter Vid Morpurgo. Born in 1838, he left shining trail behind him. Or, as inscription on a gravestone at the Old Jewish cemetery on Marjan hill says:
- Exalted in mind, noble in spirit, all his life of intellectual work he dedicated to people's liberation from spiritual and material slavery, and in awakening of people. Founder of the first bookstore, first bank, first factories, left unfillable emptiness when died.
Small, cozy bookstore at Pjaca today - under new owners - tries to reminiscence old look and store's role in the then Split. And to try to depict that time, Morpurgo's bookstore wasn't the first in Split - no less than 40 years before, some Ivan Antun Piperata opened his store on Peristil, which doesn't exist anymore. However, Morpurgo's place was more than just a store for books, it was also a centre of Split culture life of the days when city was just a small coastal town of about 15,000 people. Those were important days for Split, with awakening of the national spirit. Morpurgo also founded a brick factory, bank for farmers, and liquors distillery he maintained with another prominent Split Jew Emil Stock. When you see famous liquor brand Stock today, so popular in Italy, this is where it came from. He also published the very first Split guidebook in 1912, printed in German and Italian.
This bookstore is one of hidden Split gems. It's a place to enjoy in book-shopping, but also getting introduced to those parts of Split heritage beyond buildings and school textbooks' history. It's simple - on examples like this one lies a spirit of the city.