South Slavic Manuscripts

Laurentian Miscellany. 1348. Bulgarian. View the manuscript...
Laurentian Miscellany. 1348. Bulgarian. View the manuscript...

OR RNB. F. I. 376

219 fols. Half-uncial.

The miscellany was compiled by the priest Laurentius for Ivan Alexander ruled as Emperor of Bulgaria from 1331 to 1371. From the palaces of the Bulgarian emperors at Veliko Tarnovo, the manuscript was transferred to Romania, and from there to  Mount Athos, to the monastery of St. Paul (Holy Monastery of Agiou Pavlou).

The manuscript was among more than 500 Greek and Slavic books bought on Athos by the diplomat-monk Arseny Sukhanov.  In 1654–55, on behalf of Patriarch Nikon, Sukhanov made a trip to Athos, discovered this manuscript and brought it to Russia. The miscellany was kept in the Patriarchal Library in Moscow until the mid-19th century, then it was found in Odessa and was acquired by I.Sakharov, from whom it came to the IPB in 1863.

The miscellany contains a set of historical and dogmatic works, including the earliest copy of the Bulgarian story On Written Characters by Khrabr the Monk (1348). This legend is one of the oldest pieces of evidence about the origins of the Slavonic alphabet and the beginnings of writing among the Slavs. The story was repeatedly published according to this copy, called the "Synodal".

 

The National Library houses one of the world's richest collections of South Slavic manuscripts: Bulgarian, Serbian, Moldovlachian. It comprises hundreds of ancient lanmarks written on parchment that allow us to trace the history of writing among the Slavs. There are works written in both Cyrillic and the other ancient Slavonic alphabet, Glagolitic. The Manuscripts Department can boast the earliest copy of the Bulgarian story On Written Characters by Khrabr the Monk (1348). This legend is one of the oldest pieces of evidence about the origins of the Slavonic alphabet and the beginnings of writing among the Slavs.

Speaking about the Glagolitic literary landmarks, we should highlight the unique value of our Glagolitic collection that provided insight into development of the Glagolitic writing throughout the centuries of its existence. The National Library can boast the earliest Glagolitic manuscripts dating the 11th century, among them the celebrated Zograph Gospel which was presented to the Russian government by the monks of the Zograph Monastery on Mount Athos in 1850. No less valuable are folios from the Euchologium Sinaiticum (Sinaitic Euchologionthe), containing the liturgy of the St. John Chrysostom. It was found in Saint Catherine's Monastery on Sinai in 1850 by the Russian Archimandrite Porphyrius Uspensky and also dated to the 11th century. Both landmarks are written in the early, rounded Bulgarian-Macedonian Glagolitic script.

Missal. 15th century fragment. 6 fols. Croatian angular glagolitic script. View the manuscript...
Missal. 15th century fragment. 6 fols. Croatian angular glagolitic script. View the manuscript...

OR RNB. Berchich 88. Fol. 61-66.

Parchment. The text is decorated with headings, outline initials with elements of floral and festoon ornaments. At the beginning of the Lord's Prayer, the face of Christ is inscribed in lighter ink.

The fragment was acquired by Ivan Berčić in 1848 from the monastery of St. Michael in Zadar.

Codex Suprasliensis. Menaion for the month of March and a prayer by John Chrysostom. View the manuscript...
Codex Suprasliensis. Menaion for the month of March and a prayer by John Chrysostom. View the manuscript...

11th cent. Fragment. 16 fols.

OR RNB. Q. p. I. 72

Parchment. Uncial script. Old Slavonic language.

The initials of the manuscript are painted in the old Byzantine style. The fragment contains the Homily on the Annunciation by St. John Chrysostom,  the Torment of St. Irenaeus, the Torment of St. Jonah and Barachisia (without end).

 

The strongest tradition of the Glagolitic writing were in Croatia, where the Glagolitic script remained in active use for a long time (in Dalmatia, Croatian Littoral, Istria). Here the letters have acquired angular forms under the influence of the Latin Gothic script during the 12th century. This angular (or Croatian) Glagolitic script along with Latin and Cyrillic alphabet was used in Croatia until the 19th century, as evidenced by the unique materials of the Ivan Berčić Collection.

Of particular interest are fragments of Glagolitic manuscripts of the 13th - 15th centuries. With the appearance of printed Glagolitic books at the late 15th century, these manuscripts gradually fell out of use, but their leaves were used as material for binding other books. Thanks to this circumstance, a large part of Croatian medieval Glagolitic manuscripts has been preserved, although fragmentary.

The South Slavic Cyrillic books stored in the Manuscripts Department are produced in scriptoria located in various regions, they differ in linguistic features, being a valuable material for studying the history of Slavic languages. On the South Slavic soil, various types of the Cyrillic script were developed.

Vukan Gospel. С. 1200.  View the manuscript...
Vukan Gospel. С. 1200. View the manuscript...

1201–1208. Raška. Serbia

 ОР RNB. F. п. I. 82.  Parchment. 189 fols. Uncial script.

There are two miniatures in the manuscript: one depicts the Evangelist John, the other features Jesus Christ Emmanuel. Small headpieces are ornamented with interlaced band patterns in ink and cinnabar.  Ink, cinnabar, yellow and green paints are used for decoration of  initial letters of the Neo-Byzantine and teratological styles, which are partly composed of animal forms such as a wolf's head.

The manuscript came to the library with the collection of Bishop Porphyrius (Uspensky).

Ladder of Divine Ascenеt by St.John Climacus. View the manuscript...
Ladder of Divine Ascenеt by St.John Climacus. View the manuscript...

Mid-14th–early 15th cent. Bulgarian

OR РНБ. Pogod. 1054.

349 fols.

The manuscript contains a unique miniature featuring St. John Climacus, the author of the book, in full height. With his right hand, St.John points at the Ladder of Perfection, which consists of "steps" of virtues. In the left one, he holds a scroll with the text. The empty space to the left of the figure was filled in the late 14th century: the Russian scribe painted the figures of monks in.

Among the known portraits of John Climacus, this miniature have no equivalent; comparable  are only two illustrations in earlier Greek manuscripts.

The National Library possesses such rarities as a part of the 11th century Codex Suprasliensis included in UNESCO's Memory of the World list; the ancient Serbian Miroslav (a fragment) and Vukan Gospels; the 14th-century Bulgarian Ladder of Divine Ascent distinguished by the original image of John Climacus. Noteworthy is also a collection of works by the leading figure of the early Bulgarian National Revival St. Sophronius of Vratsa, written by his hand and containing self-portrait of the author.

The Internet resource Serbian Manuscripts in the National Library of Russia provides access to all Serbian handwritten books held in the Library's manuscript collections. These are 378 manuscripts from the 12th to 19th centuries, which will interest not only a wide range of scientists but also the general public.

View virtual exhibitions:
Cultural heritage of Europe in the collections of the National Library of Russia. Croatia
Cultural heritage of Europe in the collections of the National Library of Russia. Bosnia and Herzegovina
Cultural heritage of Europe in the collections of the National Library of Russia. Serbia
Day of Slavic Culture and Writing
Petersburg Leaf from the Twelfth Century Miroslav Gospel
South Slavonic Manuscript Gospels from the 11th - 16th Centuries