The Codex Sinaiticus and the Manuscripts of Mt Sinai in the Collections of the National Library of Russia

THE HISTORY OF THE ACQUISITION OF THE SINAI BIBLE BY THE RUSSIAN GOVERNMENT IN THE CONTEXT OF RECENT FINDINGS IN RUSSIAN ARCHIVES

A.V. Zakharova

Original Agreement between Archbishop Cyril, C. Tischendorf and Prince A.B. Lobanov-Rostovsky

Letters by C. Tischendorf, Prince A.B. Lobanov-Rostovsky, A.E. Lagovsky (Russian Consul in Egypt), and Cyril Archbishop of Sinai indicate an arrangement made by Tischendorf, Russian minister in Constantinople, and Father Superior of Sinai in 1859 on the subject of presenting the Bible to Alexander II in return to the Russian Government rendering assistance in Cyril's ordination and confirmation of his appointment as Archbishop of Sinai. The letter of guarantee by Prince A.B. Lobanov-Rostovsky of 10 September /Old style/ 1859, concerning the loan of the manuscript for publication, was regarded as a provisional step in expectation of Cyril's ordination. The extract, taken from this letter, is translated below:

<> Mr. Tischendorf informs me that the reverend community of Sinai intends, through his mediation, to present an ancient manuscript of the Bible as an hommage to His Majesty Emperor Alexander II. As such presentation cannot be formalized until the new elected Archbishop is recognized by the Sublime Porte, Mr. Tischendorf would like to borrow the said manuscript and take it to St Petersburg for his copy to be collated with the original text in printing.
Supporting Mr. Tischendorf in this intention, I declare that, should you decide to meet his request, the manuscript will remain in the ownership of Sinai brethren until officially presented to His Majesty the Emperor by Father Superior in the name of the community12   (See the letter)

Exactly how Archbishop Cyril, Prince Lobanov and Tischendorf agreed is detailed in the latter's memorandum to Minister of Public Education, E.P. Kovalevsky, dated 30 March / 11 April 1860: 13

<> Thus the manuscript was formally given to me exactly for the publishing purpose. While the matter is of utmost importance for the scholarly community, I also regarded the agreement as a means of presenting the original to the Imperial Government. The community was in full accord with the purpose. Finding that they also wanted their representative to present the manuscript, I chose Father Agathangelos, Cairo House Superior and former Kiev House Superior. The Archbishop approved my choice. So we agreed that Prince Lobanov would telegraph to me after ordination, and the representative would leave immediately to meet me in St Petersburg (See the memorandum)

From the date of discovery, Tischendorf describes the developments in letters to his wife Angelica14 and members of the Russian Government15. TThe desire of Sinai brethren to present the Bible to Alexander II is first mentioned by Tischendorf in a letter to his wife of 1 May /New style/ 185916, and another to Russian minister in Dresden, A.N. Volkonsky, of 4 May /New style/ 185917, and then to Minister of Public Education, E.P. Kovalevsky, of 12/24 August 185918. Information provided by Tischendorf with regard to the acquisition and publication of the Sinai Bible was regularly brought to the Emperor's knowledge19. In November 1859, Tischendorf comes to St Petersburg, reports on his voyage and discusses manuscript publishing prospects20. Staying in Leipzig in January 1860, he has news of Archbishop Cyril's ordination; he then informs the Public Education Minister as follows:

<> Therefore, due to an agreement made by myself and Prince Lobanov with Mt Sinai Community, there are no more obstacles for the Sinai MS to be officially presented to His Majesty the Emperor. I have also written to the Archbishop that I intend to return to St Petersburg by Easter at latest and will be pleased to see delegate of Mt Sinai there, with whom, hopefully, guided by Your Excellency, I should formally present the said MS to His Majesty the Emperor 21   (See the letter)

However, the representative of Mt Sinai expected at the official Bible presentation never arrived in St Petersburg.

In addition to Tischendorf's letters, the desire of the Sinai community to present the Bible to Alexander II is attested by Russian minister in Constantinople, Prince A.B. Lobanov-Rostovsky, and Russian consul in Egypt, A.E. Lagovsky.

In a letter from Constantinople to Egor Petrovich Kovalevsky, Director of Foreign Ministry Asian Department, 356 of 5/17 April 1860, A.B. Lobanov-Rostovsky maintains:

[fol. 20v] <> The desire of Sinai brethren to present the manuscript to His Majesty the Emperor was communicated to me by Cyril Archbishop of Sinai before he was ordained in Constantinople; in doing so, the Sinai community meant both oblige His Majesty the Emperor who sent Mr. Tischendorf to Sinai to find old copies of the Script, and obtain our Mission's support for their Archbishop's appointment. On ordination, Archbishop Cyril visited me but never mentioned the manuscript. For my part, I did not consider it proper to reopen the subject 22

Probably when staying in Constantinople in October and November 1859, Archbishop Cyril sent to Tischendorf the (undated and unsigned) letter published by Archimandrite Grigory Peradze, suggesting the need for support from the Russian Government:

<> The Berat issue seems to be delayed by the intriguing Patriarch of Jerusalem. The latter declares infringement upon his ecclesiastical rights, without being able to prove them, providing multiple and totally unsubstantiated arguments, he managed to confuse the Turks so that the Gentile Power is hesitating at every turn; that is why an Orthodox Power must intercede. The Patriarch only wants to gain as much time as possible to stir controversies among the Sinai brethren, manipulating the envoyees (?). A strong arm is needed to support argumentation of the weeker party 23

Another piece of evidence is found in confidential message no. 52 of 29 April / 11 May 1860 from Consul General in Alexandria, A.E. Lagovsky, to E.P. Kovalevsky, Director of Foreign Ministry Asian Department:

<> he [Tischendorf] asked me to persuade the Father Superior to let him have, or at least take the said manuscript to Cairo for duplication. The Superior maintained that the community could not sell the manuscript but agreed with my request to send it to Cairo and hand it to me, against a letter of guarantee, for duplication. While copying the manuscript, Mr. Tischendorf negotiated with the Sinai community the presentation of the manuscript to the Emperor, promising adequate compensation from our Government. On my part, pointing out to the Sinai brethren that the manuscript, lost in obscurity on Mt Sinai and already considerably damaged, would certainly be more useful for science and better preserved in a European metropolitan depository, I also maintained that His Majesty the Emperor would undoubtedly accept the gift of Mt Sinai community with favor and kindly reward them, adding that I could not give any definite promise, and the community should not define the reward in advance. Failing a Father Superior at the time, the community could not decide on the matter until the Archbishop was ordained. Having copied the manuscript, Mr. Tischendorf went to Constantinople and came back with a written document, signed by His Excellency Prince Lobanov-Rostovsky, to the effect that our Mission, asking Mt Sinai community to let Mr. Tischendorf take the manuscript to St Petersburg, undertook to return it unless the new Archbishop agreed to eventually surrender it. Against this document, an Act was made by fathers superiors of all Sinai communities coming to Cairo to elect the Archbishop, and the manuscript was handed over to Mr. Tischendorf.
The above indicates that neither the Consulate General not Mr. Tischendorf had any knowledge of the manuscript until the latter's last voyage to Mt Sinai; that without assistance from the Consulate and the Mission he would be unable to see or copy, much less take out the manuscript. The idea of presenting the manuscript to His Majesty the Emperor was suggested to Mt Sinai community by Mr. Tischendorf, and the new ordained Archbishop Cyril has kept, and is probably still keeping the intention, though I cannot make certain thereof as he left for Constantinople on a monastic business mission 24

On ordination, Archbishop Cyril made no request to return the Bible but was in no hurry to formalize the presentation. Judging from previously published documents, his apprehensions were caused by the hostile attitude of the Patriarch of Jerusalem, and the Greek public resenting alienation of the manuscript25.

When the four-volume Sinai Bible printed, on 29 October /Old style/ 1862 Tischendorf presented the antique original to Alexander II. There was no doubt that the manuscript would remain in possession of Mt Sinai community until the presentation was formalized. That was what the Russian Government expected on the basis of Tischendorf's interim reports and counting on his intercession. The latter continued writing to Archbishop Cyril until 1868, without receiving any definite answer26. Tischendorf hoped to travel back to Sinai at the expense of the Russian Government and deliver the reward, thus inducing the Archbishop to make the donation27. His initiative was not accepted, however. The matter was referred to the Foreign Ministry, with the manuscript kept in a safe at the Ministry Archive. Moreover, the new Minister for Public Education, A.V. Golovnin wrote to Chancellor A.M. Gorchakov:

[fol. 36] <> In the printed edition, the manuscript is seen as belonging to Petersburg, published under his Majesty's Patronage and universally recognized as the property of the Russian Gover- [fol.  36v] nment. For this reason and considering general interest in this published manuscript, I find it highly desirable to bend every effort to have the original manuscript presented, as the Archbishop of Mt Sinai had suggested, to His Majesty the Emperor in the name of Mt Sinai community, or purchased for the Russian Government, the more so that various scholarly societies and even private persons in England are surely prepared to make every sacrifice and resort to all sorts of tricks to purchase the original from Mt Sinai community should it be returned there. Also, I consider it my duty to add that, according to Full Privy Councilor Norov who has visited Mt Sinai community this year, the Archimandrite and the brethren actually wish to present the manuscript to His Majesty the Emperor 28

Russian minister in Constantinople, E.P. Novikov, for his part informs N.P. Ignatyev (then acting Director of Foreign Ministry Asian Department):

<> While Mt Sinai community has not appealed to the Imperial Mission with regard to the said manuscript, general scholarly concern about the publication of this treasure may induce them to demand either excessive reward or return to the possession of the monastery. Therefore I fully agree with the Ministry of Public Education about the need to make a decision on the ownership of the Sinai manuscript in our favor as soon as possible. To attain the goal, we could either follow the suggestions of Full Privy Councilor Norov and entrust negotiations on eventual acquisition of the Sinai Bible to Russian traveling scholars, or resort to the agency of our Mission in Constantinople. In the latter case I suggest not to begin negotiations with Mt Sinai community formally in the name of the Mission's leader but rather in a private and confidential manner, in correspondence of a person attached to the Mission with the Archbishop of Mt Sinai 29

In the meantime Mt Sinai community faced grave internal problems delaying decision on the Sinai Bible for years.

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12 Original French text of Prince Lobanov's letter of guarantee is published in Tischendorf, Die Sinaibibel, pp. 22-23, and included in whole in Tischendorf's memorandum to E.P. Kovalevsky of 30 March / 11 April 1860 below. The letter by Prince Lobanov is held in AVPRI, fond 180 (Posol'stvo v Konstantinopole), opis' 517/2, delo 3379 (1859-1869). Perepiska o Sinajskoj rukopisnoj Biblii (hereinafter: AVPRI, f. 180, op. 517/2, d. 3379), fols. 19r-v. Letter of response from Sinai brethren to Prince Lobanov of 17 September /Old style/ 1859, accepting the offer, is held in AVPRI, fond 161 (S.-Peterburgskij Glavny arkhiv) II-11, opis' 50 (1859), delo 5. Delo o Tischendorfe, professore, o vyvezennoj im iz Sinajskogo monastyria rukopisi VI veka (hereinafter: AVPRI, f. 161 II-11, op. 50, d. 5), fols. 10r-11r. The letter was published in: V.N. Beneševič. "Les manuscrits grecs du Mont Sinai et le monde savant de l'Europe depuis le XVIIe siècle jusqu'à 1927", in Byzantinisch-neugriechischen Jahrbücher, 21, 1937, p. 46. (back to the text)

13 RGIA, fond 735 (Kantselyaria ministerstva narodnogo prosveščenija), opis' 4, 1856-1860, delo 62. Delo po otnošeniju poslannika našego v Drezdene Schredera o priobretenii u professora Leipzigskogo Universiteta Tischendorfa starinnykh rukopisej na grečeskom jazyke (hereinafter: RGIA, f. 735, op. 4, d. 62), fol. 259r: cover letter, fols. 260r-263v: memorandum. (back to the text)

14 The letters are published by Aland in "Konstantin von Tischendorf", and so not dwelt on here. (back to the text)

15 See Tischendorf's letters to: Russian minister in Dresden, A.N. Volkonsky, 15 March /New style/ 1859 (RGIA, f. 735, op. 4, d. 62, fols. 112r-113r, Russian translation), and 4 May /New style/ 1859 . (ibid., fols. 126r-127r); Minister of Public Education, E.P. Kovalevsky, 15 March /New style/ 1859 (ibid., fols. 106r-107r), 12/24 August 1859 (ibid., fols. 132r-133v), 20 October /New style/ 1859 (ibid., fols. 144r-145r), 11/23 November 1859 (ibid., fols. 149r-149v), 20 January /New style/ 1860 (ibid., fols. 230r-231v), etc. The letters summarize the memorandum above and are thus omitted here. (back to the text)

16 Aland, "Konstantin von Tischendorf", p. 17. (back to the text)

17 RGIA, f. 735, op. 4, d. 62, fols. 126r-127r. (back to the text)

18 Ibid., fols. 132r-133v. (back to the text)

19 Letter by Tischendorf of 3/15 March 1859 addressed to His Imperial Majesty (ibid., fols. 108r-109r); most loyal reports by Public Education Minister, E.P. Kovalevsky, of 28 April /Old style/ (ibid., fols. 117r-118r), 2 September /Old style/ (ibid., fols. 136r-138r), 2 December /Old style/ 1859 (ibid., fols. 174r-183r), 14 April /Old style/ 1860 (ibid., fols. 285r-291v), etc. (back to the text)

20 See Letters by Tischendorf to Public Education Minister of 11/23 November (ibid., fol. 149r-v), 14/26 November (ibid., fols. 150r-153r), 16/28 November (ibid., fol. 165r), 21 November/ 3 December (ibid., fols. 171r-172r), 28 November/ 10 December (ibid., fol. 173r-v), 3/15 December 1859 (ibid., fols. 189r-191r), etc. Reviewing extensive archival sources on Sinai Bible publication is outside the scope of this study. (back to the text)

21 Letter of 20 January /New style/ 1860 (ibid., fols. 230r-231v). (back to the text)

22 See AVPRI, f. 161 II-11, op. 50, d. 5, fols. 20r-21r. (back to the text)

23 For the full French text, see Peradze, "Dokumenty", pp. 147-148. (back to the text)

24 See AVPRI, f. 161 II-11, op. 50, d. 5, fols. 24r-27r. (back to the text)

25 See letters by: monk German to Archibishop Cyril of 16/28 October 1859 (Ševčenko, "New Documents", p.62); Archbishop Cyril to Tischendorf of 16 December /Old style/ 1859 (Peradze, "Dokumenty", pp. 145-146); 12/24 January 1868 (Ševčenko, "New Documents", pp. 73-74, n. 53); memo by Archbishop Cyril (ibid., pp. 69-70); and other sources (ibid., p. 76, n. 64). (back to the text)

26 See letters by: Archbishop Cyril to Tischendorf of 20 December /Old style/ 1860 (Peradze, "Dokumenty", p. 146-147); 18 (month omitted) 1867 (ibid., p. 147); Tischendorf to Archbishop Cyril of 21 January /New style/ 1864 (Ševčenko, "New Documents", pp. 64-66); 23 March /New style/ 1864 (ibid., p. 68), etc. (back to the text)

27 See letters by: Tischendorf to his wife of 19 October /New style/ 1862 (Aland, "Konstantin von Tischendorf", pp. 30-31), dated 25 October and 1 November /New style/ 1862 (ibid., p. 31), 8, 14 and 18 November /New style/ 1862 (ibid., p. 32); Tischendorf, Die Sinaibibel, p. 86. (back to the text)

28 Cofidential letter of 5 November /Old style/ 1862, 8633. AVPRI, f. 161 II-11, op. 50, d. 5, fols. 33r-37r. (back to the text)

29 Confidential letter no. 848 of 18 December /Old style/ 1862. See AVPRI, f. 161 II-11, op. 50, d. 5, fols. 39r-41v). (back to the text)

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