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Slavic and East European Archival Collections: Manuscripts


The second oldest East Slavic Cyrillic manuscript in U.S. public collections is held by the New York Public Library. It is the 14th-century Euchologion [Mol[i]tvʹnikʹ] which was written on parchment in uncial script by one hand throughout. It has been fully digitized and comprehensively studied. It was discussed in the following worksMol[i]tvʹnikʹ

Other Early East Slavic Manuscripts

The illuminated Lectionary of the Acts and Epistles [Apostol apraksos polnyi] was written in the uncial script about 1390 on parchment byApostol apraksos polnyi three copyists apparently from Novgorod in northern Russia (see digitized pages). It was acquired in 1935 and is held in the Manuscripts and Rare Books Division, call no. Ms Slavic 1. It was discussed, among others, by Едвард Касинец, Энгельсина Смирнова. "Апостол апракос — русская орнаментированная рукопись конца XIV в. в Нью-Йорке", Памятники культуры. Новые открытия. Письменность. Искусство. Археология. Ежегодник 2005 (2013): 7-13.

Gospel Books [Chetveroevangelie] was written in Russia on paper in uncial script by two contemporaneous hands, ca. 1450-60. It is held in the Spencer Collection, call no. Slavonic Ms 2.

Heavenly Ladder (Apostol apraksos polnyi) was written in Russia on paper in the uncial script by one hand throughout, ca. 1540-50. It is held in the Spencer Collection, call no. Slavonic Ms 3. This manuscript illumination (shown to the right) depicts the so-called Ladder to Paradise described in the writings of St. John Climacus (ca. 525–600). Persons who resist earthly temptations--represented by the devil's legions tugging at the climbers--reach heaven, where Christ himself greets their arrival. Those who fall into sin, however, end up in the belly of the beast. 

Works of St John of Damascus. This volume, held in the Spencer Collection, call no. Slavonic Ms 4, consists of two parts that were bound together only in the 19th century. 1. St John of Damascus: Dialectics (Dialeltika Ioanna Damaskina) was written in Russia on paper in uncial; semi-uncial by a different hand; and uncial, possibly by a third hand, ca. 1620-30. 2. St John of Damascus: On the Orthodox Faith (Ivanna Damaskina Kniga...) was written in Russia, on paper in the semi-uncial script by one hand throughout, ca. 1650-70. 

Part of a Gospel Book (Chetveroevangelie) was written in Moldavia on paper in uncial script by one hand throughout, ca. 1600-1610. It is held in the Spencer Collection, call no. Slavonic Ms 1.

Psalter (Psaltyr so vozsliedovaniem') was written in Russia on paper in semi-uncial script, ca. 1660-70. 

All of the above-listed manuscripts have been described by Georgi R. Parpulov (Oxford) with contributions by Dmitri Korobeinikov (Moscow) and Alexandru Magola (Chişinău) in "Pre-1650 Cyrillic Manuscripts in U.S. Public Collections: A Catalogue," Palaeoslavica 18, no. 2 (2010): 1-53.

The Library holds early documents about the history of the Roman Catholic Church inSixtus IV, Brief on vellum Reval when it was under the rule of the State of the Teutonic Order [present-day Tallinn, Estonia]

  • Sixtus IV, Brief on vellum (Rome, 5 July 1475) appointing Iwan Stoltenor/Stoltevoet as Bishop of Reval, with leaden seal.
  • Sixteen deeds on vellum (1331-1533), relating to the church at Reval.

The Armenian manuscripts collection consists of two manuscripts written in Armenian. One volume, ca. 1639, contains philosophical treatises on David the Philosopher and Aristotle, and commentary on the New Testament. The other is a ca. 14th-century manuscript on vellum of service book or hymnal of the Church of Armenia. Both volumes are illuminated in color and ink. They were described in Avedis K. Sanjian, A Catalogue of the Medieval Armenian Manuscripts in the United States (1976): 499-504 and 504-506.

An important treasure is a 254‐leaf manuscript containing holograph copies of the correspondence of Cardinal Giovanni Francesco Commendone, Papal Envoy to Poland, to Cardinal Borromeo, 1563–1565, discussing political and ecclesiastical affairs in Poland and Eastern Europe [digitzed]

Letters and papers of Karl Heinrich Hoym (1694-1736), a minister and diplomat in service of  August II Mocny [Augustus II the Strong], the king of Poland, during the years 1719-1731. They are a part of the Hardwicke collection ca. 1500-1900, v. 43-45 includes materials concerning Poland from 1719-1720, and v. 70-71 from 1729-1731. Also included are printed materials  

  • Libellus supplex Serenissimo [...] Augusto II [...] regi Poloniae [...] et congregatis in comitiis regni anno 1718 [...] Reipublicae ordinibus [...] exhibitus a dissidentibus in religione Christiana in Regno Poloniae et Magno Ducatu Lithvaniae / Daniel Ernest Jabłoński (1718)
  • Prawa y wolności dissydentom w nabożeństwie chrzescianskim w Koronie Polskiey, y w W. X. L. Służące z Przywileiow, Konstitucyi Seymowych, y Statutow W. X. L. rożnych inszych, żadney wątpliwości nie podlegających Autentykow, zebrane y dla wiadomości wszystkich do Druku podane 1720
  • Jura & Libertates Dissidentium In Religione Christiana: In Regno Poloniæ, & M. D. Lithuaniæ, Ex Legibus Regni Et Aliis Monumentis authenticis, Excerpta, Anno Christi 1708 / Daniel Ernest JabłońskiStanisław II August] (1732–1798), the King of Poland to the Comte de Buffon dated Sept. 15, 1787

Letters of Sir Luke Schaub (1690-1758), a minister to Poland during the years 1730-1731. The Collection contains four documents signed and sealed by rulers of Poland in the years 1671-1810; official papers relating to Poland and Augustus II, king of Poland, for the years 1729-1731 (a part of the Hardwicke collection ca. 1500-1900).

The Lee Kohns collection of letters and documents, ca. 15th-19th centuries, includes a document signed by August II Mocny [Augustus II the Strong] (1670-1730), an Elector of Saxony from 1694 as well as King of Poland and Grand Duke of Lithuania in the years 1697–1706 and 1709-1733. 

Gino Speranza papers include copies of letters (1788-1791) by Philip Mazzei (1730-1816), a Florentine merchant, surgeon, and horticulturist to Stanisław August Poniatowski [Stanisław II August] (1732–1798), the King of Poland and Grand Duke of Lithuania from 1764 to 1795, and the last monarch of the Polish–Lithuanian Commonwealth. Mazzei served as the Polish chargé d'affaires in Paris. He then furthered his career by moving to Warsaw to work as an agent for the King. 

Thomas Addis Emmet collection includes a letter by Stanisław August Poniatowski [Stanisław II August] (1732–1798), the King of Poland to the Comte de Buffon dated Sept. 15, 1787, in which he sends specimens of natural history, etc. for the royal cabinet, together with a pamphlet by Carosi; he recalls the obliging way in which Buffon showed him the same cabinet, thirty years before; alludes to the translation of great part of Buffon's works into Polish.

A collection of 22 Russian parchment scrolls dating from the mid-16th to the end of the 17th century.

They were discussed by Vovina-Lebedeva, V. G. “Kollektsiia russkikh stolbtsov XVI-XVII vv.  v slavianskom otdele Publichnoi biblioteki N’iu-Iorka," Peoblemy istochnikovedeniia 12, no. 1 (2006): 337-344.

[Pere]vod sʺknigi imenuema Vodny mir, sir︠i︡ech... (1667) is an abridged translation of the text by Pieter Goose (d. 1675) which originally appeared in his De zee-atlas, ofte, water-wereld (1666). 

It was discussed by Avraham Yarmolinsky. "A Seventeenth-century Russian Manuscript in The New York Public Library," Bookmen's Holiday (New York: The New York Public Library, 1943): 323-334. 

Zhalovanna︠i︡a gramota (1674) is a Muscovite charter granting payment A document signed by Catherine IIin the form of lands in Russia to landowner David Zakharov Proto[a]sov for state service. 

Zhalovannaia gramota (1686) is a Muscovite charter granting payment in the form of lands in Russia from Peter the Great (Petr Alekseevich) and his brother Ivan Alekseevich to the state clerk Iuda Davydov Protasov for his long and very good service.

The Spencer Collection holds two Russian documents.

  • A document signed by Catherine II,(1729-1796) who was the Empress of Russia from 1762 to 1796 (Slavonic MS. 12)
  • A  1797 grant issued by her son Paul I (1754–1801) who was the Emperor of Russia from 1796 until his 1801 assassination (Slavonic MS. 10)

Tractatus theologici orthodoxi de processione Spiritus Sancti a solo Patre / authore Adamo Zernikaw is from 1682 (In the Latin vita, the author is listed as Zoernikav). 

It was discussed by Edward Kasinec and J. Robert Wright. “A Manuscript Copy of Adam Zernikaw’s De Processione (Baturyn, 1682) at The New York Public Library.” Confraternitas: iuvileniy zbirnyk na poshanu Iaroslava Isaievycha (L’viv: Natsional’na akademiia nauk Ukrainy, In-t ukrainoznavstva im. I. Kryp’iakevycha, 2006-2007): 352-362.

Georg de Hennin's description of the Siberian Metal Works appeared in 1735 as IndexOpisanie sibirskikh kazennykh i partikuliarnykh gornykh  zavodov

It was discussed in two articles: 

  • Avraham Yarmolinsky,  "A Russian manuscript treatise on metallurgy; Georg de Hennin's description of the Siberian metal works, 1735 ..." The New York Public Library Bulletin 40:12 (Dec. 1936): 1007-1011; 
  • Edward Kasinec and Yelena Kogan. "Вынесенная течением времени : История одной рукописи из Нью-Йоркской публичной библиотеки", Наше Наследие no. 67/68 (2003): 75-83.

An 18th-century manuscript  Raznostʹ i priiatnostʹ [Diversity and Pleasure] which contains selections from Trudoliubivaia pchela and other Russian periodicals of that period. 

Two volumes of beautifully illuminated Canticles and Chants of the Russian Orthodox Church (18th century) are held in the Spencer Collection (Slavonic MS. 7)

Kniga kvetnik (Garden of Flowers) is another 18th-century beautifully illuminated Russian manuscript in the Spencer Collection (Slavonic MS. 8)

Canticles of the Greek Orthodox Church is an 18th-century illuminated Russian manuscript ((Spencer Collection, Slavonic MS. 6)

The Life of Saint Basil the Younger was also created in Russia in the 18th century (Spencer Collection, Slavonic MS. 5)

Apocalypse is a 19th-century Russian illuminated  manuscript (Spencer Collection, Slavonic MS. 9)

A Historical & Chronological System or Conspectus of the Slavonian Churches is a 19th-century translation of Systema historico-chronologicum, ecclesiarum Slavonicarum per prouincias varias (1652) by Andrzej Węgierski (1600-1649), a Polish Calvinist historian, preacher, and poet.

The Library holds illuminated hand-written literature created by Old Believers who are Orthodox Christians that maintain the liturgical and ritual practices of the Russian Orthodox Church as they were before the mid-17th century reforms of Patriarch Nikon of Moscow.