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A. Voznesensky

ABC Books, Primers, Grammars, Dictionaries of the 16-17 Centuries

First Moscow ABC Books

ABC (Reader). Moscow, 1634. Fol. 3<sub>3</sub>v-3<sub>4</sub> ABC (Reader). Moscow, 1637. Fol. 2<sub>3</sub>v
The connection between the publication of primers and the activities of schools is easy to illustrate by other examples. Thus, printed primers did not come out in Moscow until the 30s of the 17th century. Only the long-time absence of institutions for regular educating of children can explain this fact. Solely with the attempt of Patriarch Filaret to organize a school in 1632, there appeared the need for printing ABC books. That is why, by 1634, the Moscow Print Yard (the first publishing house in Russia, established at the order of Ivan the Terrible in 1553) published two editions at once (a copy of one of them, the pocketbook, apparently, is held in the collection of the State Historical Museum in Moscow). In 1634, the Moscow printer Vasily Burtsev released an ABC (No. 9), in 1637, he reprinted the book, significantly changing its contents and providing it with a very didactic engraving. The engraving (No. 10) depicts the punishment of a careless student, but for the sake of clarity, to indicate where this is going, the printer entitled the engraving, The School.

Publications issued in the 1630s at the Moscow Print Yard and by Burtsov's print shop were not similar. The Print Yard, judging from the copy from the collection of the State Historical Museum, published a textbook of the most elementary type, it contained the alphabet, the names of letters, di-and tri-syllables, the Cyrillic numerals and description of stress on a syllable. Analogous or slightly more advanced primers were printed at the Moscow Print Yard many times henceforth. Documents of the Print Yard called them "ABC books on a sheet", because a copy of such publication was made up of one full sheet of paper. Then the sheet was folded to form eight leaves, so each leaf of an usual textbook represents one eighth the size of the original sheet. Copies of these publications are extremely rare, even though they were sometimes produced in very large numbers.


 Commandments of God and the Church. Moscow, 1702. Fol. 1.<BR> According to the documents, these publications were issued in Moscow in the last quarter of the 17th century, but unfortunately  no copy of them has survived.
In contrast to the "ABC books on a sheet", Burtsov's primers included texts to read. Thus, the first that the printer issued in 1634, soon after Ivan Fyodorov, contained parables as well as a number of important prayers to which the liturgical books often referred without giving the full text (No. 11). From the Primer of 1637, he removed prayers and replaced them by catechetical articles about the Ten Commandments of the Old Testaments as well as the Beatitudes and other teachings by Jesus, the virtues of mercy, etc. (No. 12). Later in the Moscow tradition, these texts were taken out of the Primer and released as a separate book, with the addition of the catechism: the book was entitled The Commandments of God and the Church (No. 13).

Publishing activity at the Print Yard has intensified after Nikon's ascension to the Patriarchal throne, but only the "ABC book on a sheet" was reprinted in the second half of the 17th century. To release more informative books teaching reading, typographers were not based on Burtsov's Primer, but on other sources. The origin of these sources can be traced from the publisher's information at the beginning of the new books, in which they are called the Slavonic Primer (No. 14, 15). This title could only be borrowed only from the south-western Russia.