Information about the Albanian language Bible, taken from: The Bible of every land : a history of the Sacred Scriptures in every language and dialect into which translations have been made : illustrated with specimen portions in native characters (1860).
I.—GEOGRAPHICAL EXTENT AND STATISTICS
This language is vernacular in Albania, a country which, in point of situation and extent, coincides with the ancient Epirus and lllyricum. It lies partly opposite to the Ionian Islands, and extends for more than 250 miles along the Mediterranean and Adriatic coasts. The Arnauts or Skipetars (as the Albanians are usually called) differ in language and in physical conformation from all the other tribes of Europe, and are supposed to be the descendants of the ancient lllyrians.
The total population of Albania amounts, according to a recent writer, to about 1,600,000, amongst whom are 200,000 Greeks. But the Arnaut race is also extensively dispersed throughout the modem kingdom of Greece (within which the Albanians number 173,000 individuals), and in some of the neighbouring provinces of Turkey, and is found scattered over the countries of south-eastern Europe in general. Albanians constituted, at one time, the entire population of Hydra, Spezzla, Paros, and other Greek islands, and they are to be met with in Servia, and on the coasts of Calabria, in Southern Italy. The entire number of persons belonging to the Albanian race is about two millions. They belong, for the most part, to the Greek Church, but many are Mohammedans. The inhabitants of Albania proper are nominally subject to Turkey, but are ruled by chieftains who are in a great measure independent: they are wild and predatory in their habits, and are equally dreaded by their Greek and Turkish neighbours.
II. CHARACTERISTICS OF THE LANGUAGE.
The learned Leibnitz was the first to think that the Albanian language was allied to the Celtic family; a surmise which subsequent discoveries have proved correct. The Albanians (i.e. inhabitants of Alps, like the Gaelic Albanach, and the Irish, Alban for Scotland, Albion for England) call themselves Skipetars, which in their language means rocky-land, or country. The language they speak consists more than one half of words derived, most from the Latin, Greek, German; less from the Turkish, and least from the Sclavonic: the other half forms the Albanian tongue properly so called, a remnant of the aboriginal idiom, which bears affinity to the Basque, and to other Celtic and primeval dialects. It also contains words from the Coptic; and others which, through their Germanic affinity, bear strong resemblance to English terms. It is a peculiar, and, from its antiquity, an interesting language, which was unwritten till about the beginning of the seventeenth century, when E. D. F. Blanchus or Bianchi, a Roman Catholic missionary, wrote the Dictionarium Latino-Epiroticum, printed in Rome, 1635, in 8vo. P. Budi da Pietra Bianca translated Bellarmin’s Catechism, which was printed in Rome, 1665, in 12mo. P. Bogolanus composed in Albanian and Italian the Cuneus Prophetarura, Patavii, 1685, 2 vols, in folio; and Francesco Maria da Lecce, a member of the Propaganda, made an attempt to reduce it to rule, and eventually embodied it in a grammar, which he called, ” a new sign in the grammatical heavens.” An alphabet peculiar to that language was introduced when it was first cultivated; but the Greek characters, with various signs to denote the peculiar sounds of the language, are now generally used in printing Albanian books : the books printed in Italy, however, are all in Latin letters.
III.—VERSION OF THE SCRIPTURES IN THIS LANGUAGE.
The Albanians possessed no version of the Scriptures till the year 1819, when Dr. Pinkerton, agent of the British and Foreign Bible Society, employed a native Albanian (by name Evangelos Mexicos) to prepare a translation of the New Testament into Albanian. This native had been recommended to Dr. Pinkerton by some of the first dignitaries of the Greek communion, as a person eminently qualified for the work. The revision of Mr. Mexicos’ labours was entrusted to Gregory, archbishop of Negropont. The translation and entire revision of the New Testament was accomplished in 1825, and in the same year an edition of the Gospel of St. Matthew, printed in parallel columns with the Greek version by Hilarion, was struck off for immediate distribution. The Testament was completed at press in 1827, at Corfu, under the superintendence of the Rev. I. Lowndes. The whole expense of the work was borne by the Ionian Bible Society. Opportunities for its circulation have hitherto been few, and it never reached a second edition. It has, however, been recently determined by the British and Foreign Bible Society to print an edition of the New Testament In parallel Greek and Albanian, and this work is in course of preparation at Athens. In the course of a visit to Albania in 1856, Mr. Lowndes (the Society’s agent) observed many encouraging indications of a growing demand for the Word of God.