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VID MORPURGO

(Split, 1838. – Split, 1911.)

The Jewish family of Morpurgo came originally from Maribor – hence their surname, from Maribor, or the German form of the name, Marburg.

Vid Morpurgo was educated in Split and took his leaving certificate at the Archdiocesan Seminary. Although a good pupil, he never totally mastered Croatian, and in newspaper controversies and writings always preferred to use Italian.

While still a young man, Vid got a job in the bookshop of the Split estate owner Petar Savo, where he developed a bookselling business from being connected with many foreign publishing firms.

In 1860, he opened his own bookshop, trading under the name Libreria Morpurgo succ. Savo, and this bookshop is still to be found today in the Tomašić House in Narodni trg, now called Knjižara Morpurgo.

Morpurgo wanted to launch a journal to bring together the Dalmatian educated classes, and to pull the province out of the cultural backwardness in which it languished. For this purpose he started up the Annuario Dalmatico, or Dalmatian Annual, printed in 1859, with articles sent by numerous Dalmatian intellectuals. The second volume of the Annual, which unlike the first volume of a purely literary character, started to engage with the political problems of the land.

Morpurgo’s bookshop, from the very beginnings of its activities, was the centre of the National Party in Split, where young enthusiasts for the ideas of the Croatian Revival would gather. Morpurgo himself was the informal organiser and adviser of the National Party members.

In 1875 Vid Morpurgo founded the first steam-powered brickworks in Split. At home and abroad he was also known for his brandy and liqueur factories, his warehouses for wine, owning the biggest distillery in Dalmatia after that in Zadar. After the Split commune was Croatianised, he was elected vice-president of the Split Chamber of Commerce and Trade, and subsequently indeed president.

Morpurgo helped in the foundation of the First Popular Dalmatian Bank, which aimed at freeing the Dalmatian poor famers from their dependence on the mainly Italian-oriented big estate owners, exploiters and usurers who lent money to the peasants while buying their votes. The bank was first located in the Bookshop, and he was its first vice-president, later its long-term president.