Collection of the Serbian Manuscripts in the NLR

378 Serbian manuscripts of the 12th-19th centuries are dispersed through the collections of the Manuscripts Department of the National Library of Russia. It should be emphasized that this number includes not only well-preserved books, but also numerous fragments of manuscripts (one or several sheets from a book), as well as fragments of Serbian manuscripts in miscellanies of another version of Church Slavonic (most often Bulgarian). The manuscripts covers multiple themes and genres: Holy Scripture, liturgical books, lives of saints, theological treatises, historiographical and literary landmarks. Many handwritten books contain very interesting historical inscriptions. The oldest Serbian manuscript in the collection of the National Library of Russia is the St. Petersburg leaf of the Miroslav Gospel that has gained worldwide fame today. The most significant Serbian manuscript landmark is Vukan's Gospel, created for Prince Vukan, the son of King Stefan Nemanja approximately in 1200.

Our web resource introduces a big cluster of little-known ancient Serbian parchment manuscripts to readers. Among them are notable manuscripts, important for historical and cultural studies. However, most Serbian manuscripts from our holdings are written on paper. Many manuscripts have an original artistic design.

In the Manuscripts Department of the National Library of Russia, there is no "separate" holdings of the Serbian books. Almost every collection of the Old Russian Sector includes a Serbian manuscript. Most Serbian manuscripts were obtained by the Library as part of collections of Slavic scholars and antiquity collectors who, in the 19th century, devoted themselves to a purposeful search for medieval book rarities in the monasteries of Mount Athos, Sinai, the Balkans and the Middle East. Such collectors often literally saved the manuscript from imminent destruction.

The first Serbian manuscripts entered the Library in 1805 as part of the famous collection of Peter Dubrovsky, the first Director of the Depot of Manuscripts. (Learn more in Peter Dubrovsky (1754–1816) and his collection (album). St.Petersburg, 2004)

Later, a set of the Serbian manuscripts grew with almost every newly acquired collection. At various times, the library obtained the collections of Mikhail Pogodin (in 1852), Alexander Hilferding (in 1868), Bishop Porfiry (Uspensky) (in 1883), Stefan Verkovich (in 1891), Archimandrite Antonin (Kapustin) (in 1899) and others. The manuscripts from some collections were preserved in the main stock of the manuscripts, organized by subject.

The stock of medieval Slavonic manuscripts, including Serbian ones, much increased after the Revolution of 1917, when the collections of the Society of Lovers of Ancient Literature (in 1932), the Russian Archaeological Society, the historical libraries of Kirillo-Belozersky (in 1918) and Solovetsky (in 1928) monasteries, as well as the book collection of the Novgorod Sophia Cathedral (in 1919) and others were transferred into our library.

Thus, the collection of Serbian manuscripts of the National Library of Russia – in its current form – was built up in the first third of the 20th century. The most valuable manuscripts were studied, strictly described and documented in detail. Cataloging dealt, mainly, with the ancient books of the 12th-14th centuries. To prepare this web resource, a special work was carried out to identify and describe, as far as possible, all Serbian manuscripts in the NLR's holdings. This work is ongoing.

At present, digital copies of 14 Serbian manuscripts from the holdings of the National Library of Russia, are currently unavailable in the resource. Two of them are now repaired. Three manuscripts are not physically suited to scanning because of their poor condition. The scanning of another 9 manuscripts is not finished. When the digitizing process is complete, their copies will be accessed from our website.