Oldest Handwritten Books

The oldest Russian handwritten books that reached us date back to the beginning of the eleventh century (but scholars believe that such books could have appeared in Russia already in the 9th century, after the invention of the Slavic script). Old Russian bookishness is a separate branch of Old Russian art. According to rough estimates, the number of manuscript books of the 11th-18th centuries at. in our storage facilities is from 80 to 100 thousand.

It is known that the book-writing in Russia in the XI – XIV century. at. was the unconditional prerogative of the church. The church itself needed an increasing number of liturgical books: bibles, gospels, hymns, hymns, etc. Therefore, writing off the “books of the saints” was considered a charity thing. The scribes copied the books. In most cases, they copied texts and drawings from some original, but there could have been a dictation letter. The authors were scribes.

The census of the book was a very laborious

and lengthy work. And to do it without due reverence was considered the greatest sin. So the scribe began to work with fear and trembling. The records with the indication of the beginning and the end of the work on the book have been preserved. For example, Ostromir Gospel, considered the oldest Russian handwritten book that reached us, was rewritten in 7 months (from October 1056 to May 1057). In the book 294 leaflet, then corresponded about 1.5 sheets per day. In a number of records, scribes report that they are working on a book in the evening or even at night: “Already a night, well, dark.” Apologizing for the mistakes made, the scribes refer to “drowsiness”. Perhaps the books were written by these people in their spare time from basic lessons.
Most often in the diary entries the scribe reported his name (or two names), often indicated and the profession, for example: “Pop Ghost Lihoy” (1047), or “Anthony, Monk” (1129). Among the persons who wrote the books, there were scribes “on the vow or by the order of the hegumen,” professional scribes and
scribe authors. For a long time it was believed that they were mainly people of spiritual rank. Historians suggest that among scribes XI – XV century. at. over half were secular people.

Until the XIV century. The material for the pages of manuscript books was parchment.

Pergamen (from the Greek Pergamos – Pergamum, now Bergama, a city in Asia Minor, where parchment was widely used in the 2nd century BC) – specially treated animal skins used as the main material for writing before the invention of paper. With the advent of parchment, the form of the book changed – instead of a scroll, it acquired a form close to the modern one (the codex). The sheets of parchment were cut at the edges, they were given a rectangular shape. Folded in half, they were four book pages – a notebook. Lovers of luxury colorful publications continued to order books on parchment and after the appearance of paper. Later, the parchment was used to cover the bindings.

Quite often the scribes complained of poor quality – he demanded darning to repair holes. As the main writing tools, the entries mention “pen” and “ink”. In the XI – XIV century. at. they wrote bird feathers (feathers) and glandular inks of various shades (from light rusty to black). The scribes sat on the carved benches without backs, on special cushions. They wrote on scrolls, on separate sheets, and in bound notebooks. The original of the manuscript, as a rule, was strengthened on the music stand. Next to the place of work was a curbstone with tools. To obtain even lines, a sheet of parchment, and later paper, was lined with a sharp instrument. Only after that proceeded to thoroughly rewrite each letter.

A special skill required writing a letter, or initials – the initial letters of the article. They were more likely to write cinnabar, hence the name “red line”. The letter was intended to interest the reader, to attract his attention. It was written out much larger than the main text, it was entirely ornamented, through which one could often see a mysterious beast, a bird or a human face.

Often the manuscripts were decorated with numerous drawings, not only on separate pages, but also on fields. At the beginning of the text were placed ornamental screensavers. Ornament of ancient Russian books is a special subject of study for art historians and historians. Her motives and colors suggest whether the book graphics were borrowed from Western publications or created by scribes of Ancient Rus. It must be said that book artists were often well-read people, erudite. To create paintings and miniatures, they combined information from various written sources.

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Oldest Handwritten Books