Plenty of books from the museum collection are constantly displayed at various exhibitions and expositions. The goal of the given exhibition is to demonstrate abundance and variety of the book collection of the Kirillo-Belozersky museum-reserve, to show the process of making manuscripts and early printed books, to present books as an integral and significant part of Russian people’s life during the 15th-20th centuries.

The most ancient manuscript from the museum collection dates back to the early 15th century. It is a liturgical book written on parchment which belonged to the founder of the monastery – St. Kirill Belozersky. He was a well-educated man and he started the monastery library. The book collection of the Kirillo-Belozersky monastery was one of the largest and valuable. It numbered 212 books in the late 15th century. We have information about 12 books of the Kirills private library. His books were copied and kept as sacred things. 13 manuscripts written in the monastery during the lifetime of its founder have come down to us. Two books of the 15th century that are kept in the Kirillo-Belozersky museum-reserve and the book “The Ladder of Divine Ascent” of St. John Climacus with the works of Abba Dorotheus from the holdings of the National Library of Russia are presented at the exhibition in the electronic form. There were at least three copies of The Ladder in the monastery during the lifetime of St. Kirill Belozersky. It was one of the most popular books in the Kirillo-Belozersky monastery in the 16th century: the number of its copies increased from 7 manuscripts in the late 15th century to 24 in the late 16th century.

Books of the 15th-20th centuries are kept in the museum holdings at present. In all, there are 190 (125 in Kirillov and 65 in Ferapontovo). Every manuscript is unique. Church and moral books prevail in the museum collection of manuscripts. There are lives of saints, including northern ones, narrations about wonder-working icons, and apocryphal stories. Catecheses of Theodore the Studite, copied by hieroschemamonk of the Solovetsky monastery Seraphim the Humble in the 1839-1840 for reading in his cell, is of interest among not numerous ornamented manuscripts. Along with the traditional books in the form of a codex, the exhibition also includes scrolls one of the ancient forms of manuscripts.

The Kirillo-Belozersky museum-reserve has the largest collection of printed books written in Cyrillic script in the Vologda region. It numbers 2667 (1905 in Kirillov and 762 in Ferapontovo) early printed books that make up over 58 percent of the whole fund of early printed books (4542) of the Vologda region. The collection of these books in Kirillov is formed with the editions of 1623-1914. Church books prevail among them. Besides, it is rich in lives of saints, works of church writers and historians. The second largest collection of early printed books is kept in the Museum of Dionisys Frescoes. It is notable for 11 editions of the 16th century in 12 copies (there were 5 similar editions in the Vologda region before the collection development in 1994-2002).

Books created by famous Russian printers of the 16th-17th centuries are also displayed at the exhibition. Issues of the Moscow Print Yard and the Synod Printing House prevail in the museum collection, but there are some of the St. Petersburg Synod Printing House, the Kiev Pechersk Lavra, the Pochayiv Lavra, and of many other printing centres.

Along with the books written in Cyrillic script, the exhibition presents books in Civil type dating back to the 18th first third of the 19th century, including works of several metropolitans. Visitors can see portraits of the hierarchs who wrote the displayed books.

In 2013, we will mark the 150th anniversary of the birth of N.K. Nikolsky (1863-1936), outstanding researcher of the Old Russian book-learning, famous historian of the Kirillo-Belozersky monastery. He was compiling a card index of Old Russian literature during all his life. According to his estimate, the number of manuscripts of the 11th-18th centuries which were kept in the libraries and archives of Russia in the late 19th century made up from 80 to 100 thousand. One of the sections of the exhibition tells about this famous scholar.

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