A prolific philologist and bibliographer who belonged to the Mekhitarist Congregation, Fr. Karekin Zarbhanalian produced some of the first studies devoted to our ancient literature.
He was born on December 4, 1827, in Constantinople. At an early age, he was taken to the monastery of St. Lazzaro, in Venice, where he received his education, learned ancient languages, and deepened his knowledge of ancient Armenian literature. He became a member of the Venetian branch of the Mekhitarist Congregation in 1848. He taught at the school of the monastery from 1850-1856 and wrote several textbooks. Later, he was head of the printing house (1856-1872) and secretary of the congregation (1876-1894).
Fr. Zarbhanalian contributed articles on history and philology to Bazmavep, the monthly of the congregation. He published a History of the Greek and Roman Literature in 1856, which was followed by his main work, History of Ancient Armenian Literature (1865), which had three other editions (1886, 1897, 1932). Its continuation, History of Modern Armenian Literature, was also published twice (1878 and 1905). Zarbhanalian was also the author of a two-volume History of Literature in the Medieval and Modern Centuries in Occident (1874).
Also of interest are Zarbhanalian’s Armenian Bibliography (1883), an alphabetic index of Armenian books published from the invention of the press until the 1880s. The Library of Armenian Translations of the Ancients (1889) included the translations from foreign languages into Armenian from the fourth to thirteenth centuries. The History of Armenian Printing (1895) is an account of the Armenian printing houses from the beginning to modern times. Father Zarbhanalian also prepared the edition of the ancient Armenian translations of Plato and Philo of Alexandria.
He passed away in Venice on February 13, 1904.