A Basque in Boise

Linguae Vasconum Primitiae: The First Fruits of the Basque Language, 1545 (Available in PDF)

“Out of a humble beginning, may better fortune follow.”

So ends Bernard Etxepare’s Linguæ Vasconum Primitiæ, likely the first book ever printed in the Basque language, in the year of 1545. Published in Bordeaux, the book contains a modest collection of poems, some religious, others love poetry, one autobiographical, and two extolling the virtues of Basque and its worthiness through publication to be included with the other languages of the world. Written in the Lower Navarrese dialect of Basque, the poems have found enduring fame among the Basques for their celebration of the Basque language. Included alongside the seminal translation by Mikel Morris Pagoeta is a comparative rendition of the original Basque. The book also includes a foreword by Pello Salaburu, the preface to the 1995 edition by Patxi Altuna, and an introduction by Beñat Oyharçabal.

“Other people thought it could not be written; now they have seen that they were wrong. Basque, come forth into the world!”

You can download it in PDF format from the Center for Basque Studies website here.

You can also obtain a copy of the English translation from the Center for Basque Studies bookstore here.

The following example is the Contrapas, which is a poem that broadly sets out Etxepare’s motivation for producing this book and his hopes for the language. Etxepare explains that he is the first Basque writer to have his work published in print. He calls for the Basque language to “go out” and become more widely known, for the Basques to blaze new trails and make themselves known to the world.

Original text


Text in Standard Basque 
Heuscara ialgui adi cãpora. Euskara jalgi hadi kanpora. Basque, go outside.
Garacico herria
Heuscarari emandio
Beharduyen thornuya.
Garaziko herria
benedika dadila
Euskarari eman dio
behar duen tornuia.
The town of Saint-Jean-Pied-de-Port
be blessed
for having given to Basque
its befitting rank.
Heuscara ialgui adi plaçara. Euskara jalgi hadi plazara. Basque, go out into the square.
Berce gendec usteçuten
Ecin scribaçayteyen
Oray dute phorogatu
Euganatu cirela.
Bertze jendek uste zuten
ezin skriba zaiteien
orain dute frogatu
enganatu zirela.
Other deemed it impossible
to write in Basque
now they have proof
that they were mistaken.
Heuscara ialgui adi mundura. Euskara jalgi hadi mundura. Basque, go out into the world.
Lengoagetan ohi inçan
Estimatze gutitan
Oray aldiz hic beharduc
Ohori orotan.
Lengoajetan ohi hintzen
estimatze gutxitan
orain aldiz hik behar duk
ohore orotan.
Amongst the tongues
in little esteem (you were)
now however, which you deserve
honoured amongst all.
Heuscara habil mundu gucira. Euskara habil mundu guztira. Basque, walk the world at large.
Berceac oroc içan dira
Bere goihen gradora
Oray hura iganenda
Berce ororen gaynera.
Bertzeak orok izan dira
bere goihen gradora
orain hura iganen da
bertze ororen gainera.
The others all have
ascended to their splendour
now it (Basque) shall ascend
above them all.
Heuscara Euskara Basque
Bascoac oroc preciatz?
Heuscaraez iaquin harr?
Oroc iccassiren dute
Oray cerden heuscara.
Baskoak orok prezatzen
Euskara ez jakin arren
orok ikasiren dute
orain zer den Euskara.
All praise the Basques
though not knowing the Basque language
now they shall learn
what Basque is like.
Heuscara Euskara Basque
Oray dano egon bahiz
Imprimitu bagueric
Hiengoitic ebiliren
Mundu gucietaric.
Oraindano egon bahaiz
inprimatu bagerik
hi engoitik ibiliren
mundu guztietarik.
If you have until now
were without printing
you now shall travel
throughout the world.
Heuscara Euskara Basque
Eceyn erelengoageric
Ez francesa ez berceric
Oray eztaerideyten
Heuscararen pareric.
Ezein ere lengoajerik
ez frantzesa ez bertzerik
orain ez da erideiten
Euskararen parerik.
There is no other language
neither French nor another
that now
compares to Basque.
Heuscara ialgui adi dançara. Euskara jalgi hadi dantzara. Basque, go to the dance.


For more information, check out the Center for Basque Studies website, or Wikipedia.

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