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István Illyés (1650–1711/1712), the author of our adoptable book, was born in 1650 in Csíkszentgyörgy (Ciucsângeorgiu) in Szeklerland, as the younger brother of András Illyés, later bishop of Transylvania. He was educated in his native village, at the Franciscan school of Csíksomlyó (Șumuleu Ciuc), then in Ungvár (Uzhhorod), Szepes (Spiš) and Pozsony (Bratislava).

As an alumnus of the Pázmáneum, he studied in Vienna from 1672, where he obtained a master's degree. He completed his theological studies at the German-Hungarian College in Rome, after which he was ordained a priest (1677). On his return to Hungary he held several posts (e.g. parish priest of Nádszeg [Trstice]), canon of Esztergom and parish priest of Somorja (Šamorín) in 1688, archdeacon of Hont in 1689, archdeacon of Zólyom (Zvolen) in 1690, provost of Szenttamás (Србобран) in 1691, and later abbot of Szentjobb (Sâniob). In 1693, he became custos of Esztergom, in 1696 cantor, in 1707 lector, in 1708 grand provost of Esztergom, then vicar general and bishop of Szendrő (Smederevo). He died in 1711 or 1712. 

The first edition of the Készület a jól meghaláshoz (’Preparation for Dying Well’) was published in 1693 by the Academy Press in Nagyszombat (Trnava), together with his psalms and funeral hymns, but a second, slightly revised edition was published in the same year (the University Library's copy contains the latter edition). After the greeting of the readers, the author presents in two parts how Christians should prepare for death: the first part deals with the necessary actions in a healthy age, the second with those necessary in sickness. Each of these two parts is divided into 10 further chapters. More than half of the volume is taken up by subsequent prayers, which are also necessary to prepare for death: a creed, a prayer for forgiveness of sins, a prayer against the fear of death, a prayer to the guardian angel and Mary, prayers for the terminally ill, etc. The whole work concludes with the text of the Litany of Loreto before the list of errors and contents. 25 leaves are bound behind the print (later hands numbered the leaves in pencil), on which several 17th-18th century hands inscribed prayers in Hungarian and Latin. The subjects of the hand-written prayers are diverse: a sinner's prayer to Mary; a powerful prayer to be said every nine days; a prayer for the peace of the Church and the kingdom; a rosary of the Holy Trinity against pestilence; a prayer to Jude the Apostle and Saint John of Nepomuk. 

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RMK I 346

Illyés István

Készület a’ jól meg-haláshoz, szép oktatásokkal, bíztatásokkal, főfő jószágos cselekedetek gyakorlásával, imádságokkal, és Istenhez-való fohászkodásokkal, fel-készíttetett, és először francziául, az-után olaszul, és deákül bévebben : most pedig Illyés István … által, magyarul rövidebben, és némely változással, ’s néhol hozzá-adással is, ki-bocsáttatott, a halandók, és halálos betegségben vonakodók vigasztalására, segédelmére, és az őket vigasztalók üdvösséges foglalatosságára

Nyomtattatot Nagyszombatban : az Academiai bötükkel Hörman János által, M. DC. XCIII. [1693] esztendőben

Source/author of illustration:
ELTE University Library and Archives