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Manuscripts and Old Printed Books of the 14th – 19th Centuries

The collection of manuscripts of the Sergiev-Posad Museum numbers about 300 specimens  of the 14th -20th  century.  The  ancient charters, letters, addresses, books of  monastic account – donation books, inventories, obituaries, sacred scriptures, divine service books and many other writings   are presented here. Among the Monastery documents the Inventory of the Trinity-St. Sergius Monastery of 1641 and the Donation Books  of  1639 and 1673  are of  special  significance.  They are the most valuable and fundamental sources, and in fact, they are real documents for experts in different fields.

Actually,  the  formation of the manuscript collection   began simultaneously with the Museum establishment in   April 20, 1920.   The important role was played by the Commission on the protection of  history and art monuments  of the Trinity-St. Sergius Lavra, organized in October, 1918 to transfer the Monastery treasures to the state. The book collection of the Trinity-St. Sergius  Lavra was  also within its responsibility.  However, the majority of manuscripts from the  unique Monastery collection  passed  to the State Lenin Library in Moscow in the 1930s.   The  act  was  finely confirmed by  decision  (№ 50) of  the USSR Ministry of Culture, issued in February 3, 1955. 

The unique part of the Museum manuscript collection is represented by two illuminated specimens  - the Gospel and the Apostle of  Moscow Metropolitan  Iosaph (Skripitsin). The earliest Gospel from the  Nikolo-Pesnoshsky Monastery arrived from the Dmitrov Museum in 1959. It is decorated with four colored  miniatures with the images of the evangelists that are close to those in the icons  of Dionysius -  the famous artist of Old Russia. The Gospel was presumably written  by Sergius  Dobropisets, who was probably connected with the Trinity Monastery.

    The book acquisition  and  investigation, which  began during the Commission activity, resumed  in the late 1950s. The new stage of collecting  was the result of the Museum expeditions, aiming  to discover  monuments of  Old Russian art. They were organized in the Moscow region  and , mainly in the Sergiev Posad, former Zagorsk district, with its ancient settlements that used to belong to the Monastery or to the great landowners.

The memorial books   included  the  Obituary of 1679, commissioned by boyar B.M. Khitrovo. Its preface contains the article about the visit of  Ivan the Terrible to the Trinity Monastery in 1583 on the occasion of  “ murder” of  his son tsarevich Ivan.  The Obituary was based on the earlier document of Ivan the Terrible’s time, dating back to 1575. The most valuable part for investigators records  the memorial inscriptions of the late 17th –mid 19th century. The Obituary of  1679 was for the first time introduced  for scientific research.

The manuscript titled  The Book of  Sticherion  of the first quarter of the 17th century  was composed by the famous  Old Russian chanter Login Shishelov, nicknamed Cow. It  originated from  the former Trinity Monastery collection. The manuscript was  illuminated with colorful and leaf  gilded miniatures. 

Three illuminated manuscripts of the 16th  century from the collection of the Sergiev Posad  Museum-Reserve are remarkable for their artistic quality. They are  the  Gospel of  Deacon Iona Zuy  and  the Gospel of   Archimandrite of the Trinity-St. Sergius Monastery Mercury Dmitrovets  and  the  Apostle of  Moscow  Metropolitan  Ioasaph.   They were originally included into the group  of the ancient manuscripts of the  so-called  sacristy collection. 

It should  be noted that in  the 16th  century, the local   "school" of  icon- painting was formed in the Trinity-St. Sergius Monastery, so it is not improbable that there were manuscript illuminators among the local artists. The Trinity origin of  the manuscripts is confirmed by the social status of  their owners whose historical destinies happened to be closely connected  with the Trinity-St. Sergius Monastery.

Тhe third book – “ The Apostle” - is practically unknown  to experts. “The Apostle” from the collection of the Sergiev Posad  Museum  is magnificently decorated according to the traditions of the first half of the 16th  century. The book  entirely corresponds to the  high social  position of  its former owner - Metropolitan Ioasaph (Skripitsin) of  Moscow.  “The Apostle” is  half- sheet in size.  It is written in a beautiful half-running hand  on 574  sheets with wide margins.

The manuscript is decorated on the same principle, as the Gospel mentioned above. Alternating miniatures and colorful head ornaments are used, but the illumination of  “The Apostle” is more magnificent.  The miniatures in all three books demonstrate one of the trends in the development of  book illumination in the 16th  century

“The Tale  of  the Icon Depicting  the  Virgin Hodigitria  of  Tikhvin”, dating back to the  1780s,  is a noteworthy  book in the Museum collection. This  manuscript has not been noticed by the researchers yet.  It belongs to the monuments of the  late tradition. It is rather large (302 sheets) and   richly illustrated (119 miniatures and 2 headpieces). The manuscript includes all narrations about the Virgin of  Tikhvin,  known in the 17th – 18th centuries.  

The Museum possesses quite a number of albums, including Old Believers’ collections. One of the books is a chant manuscript – a copy of  the 17th century document,  written  in the   19th  century.  It is richly decorated with feast compositions  and  ornaments in   leaf-gold.

The books, printed in  Cyrillic,   constitute a considerable part of the collection comprises a  large group of  books printed in Cyrillic. The Museum  collecting activity considerably enlarged the number of manuscripts and old printed books. At present, it totals over a thousand  specimens. The basic part of the  Museum collection comprise  59 books originated from  the former  repository of the  Trinity-St.Sergius Lavra.

Two thirds of  524  books  in  Cyrillic were printed  in   Moscow in the  16th   - 18th   centuries. The editions  of other printing houses, especially those of  Warsaw, Wilno, Grodno, Kiev, Klintsy, Lvov, Ostrog, Pochayev,  Suprasl and St.-Petersburg are represented by singular volumes. Among the early  17th  century books we should point out   the Gospel of A. M. Radishchevsky (1606), and the Gospel of Archimandrite Nektary of 1633.  The Menology of 1690 in a cover of leather on  boards,  decorated with stamping, is an example of  a church  service book.

The most numerous group in the Museum collection consists of  the 18th century editions,  represented  mainly by  "ordinary", completely preserved volumes. The liturgical menologies (176 editions in 193 copies) and the Gospels (44 editions in 103 copies) are most numerous,  i.e. they  comprise more than a half of the whole collection. One of  the reasons of  their prevalence is  their  surviving precious binding or cover, decorated with engraving, niello, stamping, casting and, in some cases, with jewels.

The Gospel of 1722 can be referred to  the 18th century printed editions. One copy is in a velvet binding  with enamel decorations, the other – in a binding  of boards   enclosed in a chased brass  cover. The top board shows  the Resurrection of Christ and Evangelists. The book «Acaphistus and Canons», published in Kiev in 1731, is perfectly illuminated. The pages of the book are framed with  magnificent floral patterns. 

The sample of a book  in Cyrillic  is «The Lives of  St. Sergius of  Radonezh and St. Savva  Storozhevsky», edited by merchants Dm. Rukavishnikov and Jacob Zheleznikov’s Printery  in Klintsy in 1786.  The book cover is of  embossed leather on  boards. This book  arrived from the  small, but valuable collection of  G.I. Mankovsky (Moscow). Nine books of this collection were selected for the Museum. They are monuments of  Moscow, Ukrainian and Belorussian  Cyrillic script of the 17th – 18th  centuries

“The Homilies”  of  Abba  Isaac Sirin is a rare 19th century edition.   It was published by the Moldova Vlakhiysky Monastery in 1812. The book cover is of  embossed leather..