Studies in Variation, Contacts and Change in English
Volume 9

Western European Manuscripts and Early Printed Books in Russia: Delving into the Collections of the Libraries of St Petersburg

Edited by Leena Kahlas-Tarkka & Matti Kilpiö
Research Unit for Variation, Contacts and Change in English (VARIENG), University of Helsinki

Publication date: 2012


Bleskina, Olga
Eighth-century Insular Gospels (NLR, Lat. F.v.I.8): Codicological and palaeographical aspects

The Insular Gospels (NLR, Lat.F.v.I.8) is one of the most famous manuscripts preserved in the National Library of Russia. The manuscript was produced in eighth-century England under the influence of the Irish book art. The earliest descriptions of the Insular Gospels date back to the eighteenth century but its full codicological analysis is still incomplete.

This article aims to contribute new information on the production process of the codex and the peculiarities of its script. In particular, it claims that the manuscript was copied by three scribes, who worked on their quires in stages – from ruling to decoration. The first scribe prepared the quires for copying, copied and decorated all the prefaces, prologues, and tables of contents, produced the arcades with canon tables and initial pages of the Gospels of Matthew and John. The second scribe ruled, copied and coloured small initials in the Gospel of Matthew. The third scribe prepared, copied, and illuminated the Gospels of Mark, Luke and John. It appears that the first scribe – possibly the most experienced – put the codex together after its parts had been copied, simultaneously playing the role of its corrector.

The text of this article is also available in Russian.

Elagina, Natalia
Manuscripts and documents on Mary, Queen of Scots, in the collection of the National Library of Russia

The execution of Mary Stuart on 8 February 1587 by the order Queen Elizabeth I shocked Europe and gave rise to a legend around the image of the Queen of Scots. Since then her tragic story has for many centuries been a subject of study for historians and a matter of inspiration for writers, artists, and composers. In Russia this interest can be seen in the acquisitions of several collectors. Their items today form an extensive body of manuscripts and other documents connected with the name of Mary Stuart in the stocks of the National Library of Russia. The best known manuscript in this corpus is Mary Stuart's Book of Hours, other materials include a portion of her correspondence for the years 1559–1570, a number of official documents (petitions, instructions, notes), diplomatic reports, and literary and historical works dedicated to the Queen of Scots and dating to the seventeenth century. All these materials are testimonies to the difficult and fascinating period of English and Scottish history, which preceded the Union of the Crowns under the son of Mary, James Stuart, at his accession to the throne of England in 1603.

The text of this article is also available in Russian.

Frolova, Olga
Sixteenth-century English books in the National Library of Russia: The editions published by Wynkyn de Worde

This article deals with the works of one of the earliest English printers and publishers, Wynkyn de Worde (?–1534). William Caxton’s successor he published a considerable number of books on various subjects. This study brings to scholarly attention five copies of his editions preserved today in the foreign collections of the National Library of Russia (NLR); among them a 1508 missal, which is likely to be unique. I describe the copies and provide a brief analysis of their contents and history before their acquisition by the NLR. I point out that these five copies are the earliest English books preserved in the NLR. The article can be of interest to scholars of history, book history, philology and simply to bibliophiles.

The text of this article is also available in Russian.

Havu, Sirkka
Connecting St Petersburg and Helsinki: European book treasures from Russia to Finland

The National Library of Finland (formerly Helsinki University Library) received most of its old collections from Russia at the beginning of the 19th century. The reasons for this were the destruction of the Library’s holdings in the Great Fire of Turku in 1827 and the annexation of Finland to Russia in 1809.

The largest donations were from Russian Imperial libraries and the Library of the Academy of Sciences of St Petersburg. In 1829 the Academy sent some 4,000 volumes, mostly jurisprudence and theology, to Helsinki. In 1832 Paul Alexandroff donated two collections inherited from his father, Grand Duke Konstantin Pavlovitch. Emperor Nicholas I’s interest in the development of the Helsinki University Library was evident in the gift of two large medical libraries and a large collection of academic dissertations.

The provenance of many of the books coming along with these donations is splendid. There are hundreds of books from historically interesting libraries, such as those of the Radziwillian Princes, the Dukes of Courland, Jacob Bruce, J. A. von Korff, M. V. Lomonosov, and J. P. van Suchtelen.

In 1916 the Library of the Monrepos manor in Vyborg was donated to the Library. This exceptionally large private library had been collected by L. H. von Nicolay, a prominent courtier at the Russian court.

Kahlas-Tarkka, Leena & Matti Kilpiö
O Thou Sea of Love: Oxford and St. Petersburg manuscripts of Ann Bathurst’s religious visions

The article deals with the religious visions and mystical writings of Ann Bathurst, a late 17th-century religious thinker closely connected with Philadelphian mysticism and English Behmenism, who wrote a massive diary about her ecstatic experiences. All her writings are only available in manuscript form, one autograph fragment (Bodley MS Rawl. Q. e. 28) and two fair copies, one in the Bodleian Library and one in the Library of the Russian Academy of Sciences. One and the same passage from the three manuscripts has been transcribed and studied closely for this article.

Ann Bathurst’s colourful language provides a rich source for research. Special attention is paid to her ‘unlearned’ and inconsistent phonetic or semi-phonetic spellings, as well as to features of syntax and grammar, e.g. relative as, the –th/-s variation in verb forms, and gerundival constructions. Bathurst’s lexis and ways of word-formation are of particular interest. Further work in this area is likely to lead to new discoveries.

Kilpiö, Matti
Two medieval English inscriptions in the collections of the National Library of Russia, St. Petersburg

This article deals with two medieval inscriptions housed in the Manuscript Department of the National Library of Russia (NLR), St. Petersburg. One of the inscriptions is in Old English, the other in Middle English.

The Old English inscription is now only available as a copy in a modern handwritten catalogue; the original manuscript, MS Lat.O.v.I N 45, has been lost. The catalogue, written by the famous Russian paleographer Olga Dobiash-Rozhdestvenskaya, covers the Western medieval manuscripts kept in the NLR. The card containing her notes on MS Lat.O.v.I N 45 is now the only witness for the inscription. Her insecurity in transcribing the Old English text must be the main reason for the obviously garbled form in which the inscription is given in the DOEC. In this article I give my own transcription and interpretation of the text.

The Middle English text is an owner’s inscription in MS Lat.F.v.I. N 70, a 14th century Latin manuscript of English provenance. The inscription is cast in a poetic form. The text is an example of prosopopeia: the inanimate book is the speaker. In a superficial way the inscription resembles medieval book curses but the actual curse element is missing. There are phonological features in the inscription that suggest a Norfolk localization for the text.

Kilpiö, Matti & Marina Tsvinaria
The Old English scribble in MS Lat.O.v.XVI.1 in the National Library of Russia (St Petersburg) and its manuscript context

In this article, our main focus is on the Old English poetic scribble on f. 15r of MS Lat.O.v.XVI.1 kept in the National Library of Russia (St Petersburg). We discuss its linguistic and literary aspects, including a metrical analysis. Our secondary aim is to describe the Latin texts surrounding the scribble and to identify them as completely as possible.

MS Lat. O.v.XVI.1, a 10th century English manuscript, is one of the numerous manuscripts acquired in Paris by Pierre Dubrowsky in the late 18th century. The bulk of it is taken up by Priscian’s Institutio de nomine et pronomine et verbo. In addition to a number of scribbles and short fragments, the rest of the manuscript contains Latin liturgical texts. The final folios, ff. 17 and 18, bound with MS Lat. O.v.XIV.1, are Latin fragments from a later, possibly French, manuscript of the 12th century. The reason for their inclusion here must be that they contain fragments from another grammatical work by Priscian.

In addition to a detailed discussion of the Old English scribble, this article adds to our knowledge of MS Lat.O.V.XVI.1 by identifying a fragment of Passio Dionysii, Rustici et Eleutherii, by giving the text of a hagiographical fragment dealing with Gregory the Great for the first time and by identifying the grammatical texts on ff. 17 and 18 as disiecta membra of a manuscript of Priscian’s Institutiones grammaticae.

R. W. McConchie
Sixteenth-Century English Books and Authors in the National Library of Russia, St Petersburg: A Preliminary Survey

This report concerns the accumulation of English books in the foreign stock of the National Library of Russia, St. Petersburg. While not nearly as extensive as its collections of French, German, or Polish books, it is nevertheless a significant resource which has not been studied so far. It is extensive enough to contain some highly significant items, to provide some perspective on eighteenth-century collectors and collections, and add to our view of English writers and publishers in the sixteenth century, particularly those with continental connexions. Not only are there some individual items of great rarity and interest, but the collection also offers a general sense of what enlightenment bibliophiles and scholars saw as germane to their cultural outlook. This report briefly considers the history of the library and the sources of its foreign books, as well as surveying the make-up of this accumulation, including the best-represented authors, places of publication, and the importance of English exiles and expatriates.

Pitulko, Galina
Sixteenth-century English Books in the Library of the Russian Academy of Sciences (St. Petersburg)

The article focuses on the sixteenth-century printed English books kept in the Library of the Russian Academy of Sciences and deals with the distinctive features of Elizabethan book culture. The author points out that the Renaissance, the Reformation and other political and intellectual movements created quite a special atmosphere in society and reflected on the repertoire of publishing. The paper aims at a detailed description of the most interesting 16th-century volumes which are of great value to scholars specializing in the field of English history, medieval literature etc. It is proved that English book rarities stand in evidence of an unprecedented heyday of the publishing culture in Europe.