About the Project

The project «Euphrosynus Manuscripts - Fifteenth-century Miscellanies of the 'Leonardo da Vinci of Ancient Russia'» continues a challenging programme of the National Library of Russia, aiming to create digitised versions of the landmark manuscripts. The programme begun in 2013 with the online resource «Laurentian Codex. 1377» was designed to open up universal access to the unique handwritten landmarks forming part of the cultural and historical heritage of Russia.

The Euphrosynus Manuscripts vividly demonstrate how the Renaissance elements penetrate into Russian culture during the second half of the 15th century, at the turning point in history of Russia. Along with the religious texts, typical for monastic readings, the miscellanies include numerous masterpieces of "secular" literature. Among them are not only fiction stories of earlier periods, translated by scribes of Kievan Rus in the age of the "Russian antiquity", but contemporary literary, social and political writings, as well as nature of science articles, and fragments from some scientific treatises of the European antiquity, which were found in Russia at that time.

Compiling his readings, Euphrosynus not simply copied, but also significantly revised texts. He made choice about selection and arrangement of the material purely himself, and his editing reflects his individuality. One of the miscellanies bears miniatures executed by the icon-painter Ephraim Trebes specifically for Euphrosynus: the one depicts Alexander the Great, the other shows the winged centaur Kitovras. These examples of book design and illustration are unique. The works included in the miscellanies cover an almost encyclopedic range of subjects. Euphrosynus strongly emphasizes his own position as a compiler and editor, it is not customary in Old Russian literature which suggests that personality should be abandonded. All of the above turns the Euphrosynus Readings into landmarks of primary cultural and historical importance.

The project was implemented as part of the federal action programme «Culture of Russia».

The project presented the five Euphrosynus miscellanies housed in the Kirillo-Belozersky collection of the Manuscripts Department of the National Library of Russia under the following shelfmarks: Kir.-Bel. 6/1083, Kir.-Bel. 9/1086, Kir.-Bel. 11/1088, Kir.-Bel. 22/1099, Kir.-Bel. 53/1130.

The library of the Kirillo-Belozersky Monastery (St. Cyril of Beloozero's Monastery) was transferred in the National Library of Russia (then the State Public Library) in 1918, but the name of the scribe Euphrosynus and his miscellanies were discovered and became known to the scientific community in the second half of the 19th century. Since then, researchers have not lose interest in the readings of this hieromonk - scribe. Many works have received special study, most of the masterpieces have been published. These activities have left their traces on the appearance of the manuscripts, as a result, they can no longer withstand the wear and tear of human handling.

The digitization project aims to prevent damage to the originals by creating their digital facsimiles. It is part of a series of activities for preservation of the most important handritten landmarks and bringing them to unlimited audiences through our site.

The project follows the creation the online resource «Laurentian Codex» and applies the same methods and tools. The project was carried with use of the information retrieval system «Depositary», which was developed by specialists of the National Library to create an electronic database of the manuscript holdings. This search system makes it possiple to link digital pages of the manuscript with the relevant reference information, stored in the database. As a result, the created online resource gives an opportunity both for researchers and for the most general public to get familiar with such complicated material as the medieval manuscript.

The fundamental idea of the project, as well as the whole programme, is an integrated approach to the representation of a ladndmark manuscript in a single entity of its elements. Therefore, the online resource, we presented here, will may become a valuable source for the general public, students and researchers, meeting their information needs and objectives.