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Slavonic Cyrillic Books of the 15th - 18th Centuries

The collection of Cyrillic works from the early period of Slavonic and Russian book-printing is truly unique. It is one of the largest and most comprehensive collection of its kind in the world. This is a collection of over 7000 titles published from 1491 to 1 January 1801. It contains two thirds of all the books known to have been produced in the Cyrillic alphabet in the sixteenth century. The St Petersburg collection includes all today known Slavonic incunabula — the products of Slavonic printshops in the Balkans, Venice and Ugro-Wallachia; all the publications of the Belorussian printing pioneer Franzisk Skorina known to bibliography; the books printed in Moscow, Belorussia and Ukraine by Ivan Fiodorov; the first Russian textbooks; rare works from Moscow and St Petersburg print-shops and from those run illegally by the dissident Old Believers sect. In some cases the National Library of Russia has the only surviving copy of a work.

The collection was built up, mainly over the nineteenth century and a quarter, through purchase and donation of the libraries of institutions and private collectors. Notable acquisitions of the early nineteenth century, for example, include libraries assembled by Count F.Tolstoy, the merchant S.Soloviev, the bibliophiles I.Kasterin and P.Frolov. In later years, the holdings of early printed Cyrillic material was further enriched with books, collected by M.Pogodin, P.Korobanov, I.Karataev, A.Neustroev and others. A considerable number of items were transferred to the Library from the Hermitage, the Synod, the Rumiantsev Museum, and the General Staff. Thanks to the acquisitions mentioned above and smaller ones, the coverage for publications in the Cyrillic script from the fifteenth to eighteenth centuries is as comprehensive as possible. Items have survived in a generally good condition.

The holdings of early printed Cyrillic material are still growing. The growth in the collection is largely by purchase.

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