NLR Online Exhibitions

Academician-Arabist Ignaty Krachkovsky: his Collection of Oriental Manuscripts in the National Library of Russia

O. V. Vasilyeva

Ignaty Yulianovich Krachkovsky and the Public Library

Ignaty Yulianovich Krachkovsky. 1946

The founder of the national Arabic school Academician Ignaty Krachkovsky (1883–1951) attended the St. Petersburg University, and later taught there and headed the Arabic Cabinet at the Asiatic Museum (now the Institute of Oriental Manuscripts of the Russian Academy of Sciences). He explored Muslim and Christian literary artifacts from the collections of these institutions, as well as from the libraries of Beirut, Cairo and Damascus, which he visited in 1908–1910 while on an internship in the Middle East. He was also a reader in our library.

" It was with a feeling of reverential awe that in the year 1901 I stepped over the threshold of the Public Library in St. Petersburg. I was then a freshmen...And now, forty years after my first visit, whenever I enter the sober halls of the Manuscripts Department, each time I have a particular feeling of elation as I sense the importance of the work that is being done here". These words open the Prologue to the first chapter of Krachkovsky's Among Arabic Manuscripts: Memories of Libraries and Men. First published in 1945, the book has gone through many editions, most recently in 2016. The English translation was published by Brill in 1953 and again in 2016. .

The first chapter deals with the Manuscripts Department and its head, Ivan Afanasyevich Bychkov (1858–1944). It tells about five Arabic manuscripts that attracted Krachkovsky's particular attention, starting with the oldest dating 272 AH (885–886 CE). This is a fragment of a Christian work that he discovered back in 1906. Since then, Krachkovsky has made many other findings in manuscript collections. He wrote about al-Suli's work on the history of the Abbasid era, in a copy from the N. V. Khanykov collection, and about the chronicle of the 11th century Arabic -Christian historian Yahya of Antioch, a copy of which was acquired with the collection of Bishop Porphyrius (Uspensky), and about many other things.

Until the end of his days, Ignaty Krachkovsky have a soft spot in his heart for the Public Library. With this in mind, his widow Vera Alexandrovna Krachkovskaya (1884–1974), a professor at the Faculty of Oriental Studies and a specialist in Islamic art and Arabic epigraphy, donated a collection of 80 Oriental manuscripts to the Library in 1971–1974. The collection is now housed in the Manuscripts Department (ф. 1125, оп. 1).

 Vera Alexandrovna Krachkovskaya. 1960
The academician's collection of printed books, numbering 20 thousand items, and the accouterments of his study, according to Vera Alexandrovna's will, were transferred to the Library in 1974 and became part of the Department of Literature of Asian and African Countries. Later, most of the archival materials found during the cataloging and systematization of Krachkovsky's library were transferred to the Manuscripts Department (ф. 1125, оп. 2). At the same time, some documents, drawings, memorial things and items of museum significance were left in the Asian and African Department.