April 30, 2016

Millions of dollars for macedonian manuscripts

Scattered heritage


Although Slavic nations are reserved and don't always draw attention to the fact that their literacy originates from Macedonia, they are well aware of it, and even too literally understand the Old Slavic written traces from the territory of Macedonia. Probably that's why there are many more Macedonian manuscripts in Russia, Bulgaria and Serbia than in Macedonia. In the past, manuscripts were not only systematically destroyed, but also systematically collected and taken out of Macedonia. One of the first and most determined collectors throughout Macedonia was the Russian scholar Viktor Grigorovič, who took away many manuscripts to his country in the first half of the 19th century. Today, in the State Library in Moscow alone there are 47 manuscripts from his "legacy", dating from the 12th to the 14th century.

In the early 1990's, when Macedonian institutions became more independent in international relations, there was an intense cooperation between the "Vladimir Ilich Lenin" State Library in Moscow and the National and University Library "St. Clement Ohridski" in Skopje during which an exhibition was prepared that never took place. Namely, an exhibition of old manuscripts from Macedonia that were kept in Moscow was to be opened in Skopje. Only fifteen valuable manuscripts of the Moscow’s library vast handwritten heritage archive were to be exhibited. However, the reason the exhibition never happened wasn't that the library had never before taken such valuables out of its treasury, but because these precious items were estimated by the Russian experts and insurance companies to be worth 70 million US dollars. So Macedonia (for its own manuscripts) needed to pay a very high amount of money as insurance.

The manuscripts' value, just as the value of all relics, cannot be measured in money; nevertheless, this fact alone shows the worth of Macedonian handwritten treasure scattered across the world.

The State Library in Moscow, among other items, has the larger part (171 pages) of The Gospel of Maria manuscript—a Glagolitic monument from 10th-11th century—while the other part is in the National Library in Vienna. The State Library in Moscow also has several Macedonian manuscripts from the 12th and 13th century, such as: The Ohrid epistle (in 112 parchment sheets) which belongs to the Ohrid literary school (taken by V. Grigorovič from the Ohrid Cathedral in 1845), the Grigorovič Parable Book (the oldest transcription of the Slavic translation of the Parable Book, written in the 12th century, not preserved in full, but 104 parchment sheets only), the Strumica Octoechos (in 84 parchment sheets), all dating from the 12th century; then the Gospel of Bojan (109 parchment sheets) dating from the 12th-13th century, and The Grigorovič Psalter (169 parchment sheets) from the 13th century, discovered by Grigorovič in the Philoteus monastery on Mt. Athos.

V. Grigorovič, despite the manuscripts he sold and the ones he gave as gifts, had an abundant Slavic and Macedonian manuscript collection of his own, given after his death in 1876 to the "Rumjancev" Museum in Moscow, which in 1924 changed its name to "V. I. Lenin" State Library. It is estimated that the Grigorovič Collection in this Moscow library contains 60 manuscripts, thirteen of which date from the 13th century. But, Grigorovič left Macedonian manuscript collections in other Russian libraries and museums as well. According to Macedonian experts, however, in addition to the Grigorovič collection, the State Library in Moscow has more than 130 other Macedonian manuscripts (!).

The most significant Macedonian manuscripts in the State Library in Moscow, according to their date of origin, are: the lenten and spring triodions (188 parchment sheets), a hexameron (82 parchment sheets), the Hludov Macedonian parable book (171 parchment sheets), the Hludov Psalter (154 parchment sheets), the Karpinci gospel and epistle (313 parchment sheets) – all dating from the 13th century; the Macedonian gospel from Narov, a tetragospel (240 parchment sheets), the epistle (94 parchment sheets), a theophologue (149 parchment sheets), a prologue (104), a gospel and an epistle (207) and a theophologue (184 parchment sheets), all dating from the 14th century.

The oldest preserved gospel from Macedonia can be found in the "S. Schedrin" State Library in St. Petersburg. It is the Gospel of Zographou, dating from the late 10th or the early 11th century. It was written in the Glagolitic Alphabet, i.e. it consists of 303 sheets, 228 of which were written in the Glagolitic Alphabet, and the rest of them were written in Cyrillics. This library also has a Macedonian Cyrillic sheet from the 10th century (discovered by Gilferding in the middle of the 19th century), and it is considered to be the oldest Macedonian manuscript of the "one-Er" old orthography.

This library also has the Gospel of Dobromir dating from the 12th century, i.e. only a part of it, consisting of 183 parchment sheets, whereas the other part (of 23 sheets) is in the Sinai "St. Catherine" Monastery. The St. Petersburg library also has the Šafaric triodion and a fragment from a spring triodion from Slepče (on parchment), both from the 12th century; the Pogodin psalter (278 parchment sheets), the Orbel Macedonian triodion (241 parchment sheets), the Dečani Macedonian psalter (201), a lenten and spring triodion (157), Gospel readings (183), the Stamat tetragospel (183), the Dečani gospel (208), the Radomir psalter (a fragment) from the Zographou Monastery on Mt. Athos, five pages and three page cuttings of the Gospel according to Matthew – all from the 13th century; a Collection of three manuscripts (a prayerbook, speeches and lessons, apocryphas – 119 sheets) from the 12-13th century; The Lessons of Efrem Sirin, two tetragospels, one official menaion (225 parchment sheets), an octoechos (179 parchment sheets) and several more dozen manuscripts that were written in Macedonia in the 14th century, or in total 131 manuscripts (!), 71 of which were sold to the library by Stefan Verković.

There's no library or museum in the Slavic countries that doesn't have Macedonian relics, manuscripts in particular. Fragments from several manuscripts (primarely triodions) dating from the 13th century can be found in the Library of the Academy of Sciences in St. Petersburg, which in 1905 alone bought 84 Macedonian manuscripts from the legacy of the collector P. A. Sirku, a Slavistics scholar.

Macedonian manuscripts are kept in the Academy of Sciences in Kiev, as well. The "Maksim Gorki" State Library in Odessa has the significant collection of Viktor Grigorovič. This collection consists of two sheets of the Ohrid Gospel (or the Ohrid Glagolitic papers) from the 11th century, discovered by V. Grigorovič in Ohrid, and a Collection dating from 1456. The same library in Odessa has a Cyrillic fragment from the 10-11th century, i.e. two parchment sheets, called the Chilandar papers, discovered in the Chilandar Monastery also by V. Grigorovič, in 1844.

The National Museum in Prague has (in the Collection of Šafaric) the so-called Šafaric Macedonian epistle, also known as the Strumica epistle. It dates from the 13th century, consists of 91 parchment sheets, and is especially interesting for linguistic research.

In the Yagelon Library in Krakow, among other items, there are six manuscripts that Rudolf Godowsky, a Polish doctor who stayed in Macedonia, took from the "St. Dimitrija" Monastery in Prilep in 1863.

Macedonian manuscripts can also be found in the Kazan University and in the Kazan Spiritual Academy, as well as in non-Slavic countries' libraries and museums.

The Library of Vatican, for instance, has the Aseman Gospel, which is the most beautiful Macedonian handwritten monument that was preserved. It was written in Glagolitics in the early 11th century, and it consists of 158 parchment sheets. Considered to be the oldest Slavic manuscript, it was discovered in Jerusalem in 1736.

The University Library in Bologna has the Bologna Psalter from the 13th century (264 parchment sheets), which is very interesting for textual, paleographic, linguistic and ornamental studies. Many internationally renowned Slavic experts have studied it.

There are Macedonian manuscripts in the State Library in Munich, in the British Museum in London (which also has a statue of the old Greek poet Eschin, discovered in Heraclea [Macedonia]), in Istanbul, in Vienna and in other European cities. 

To be continued...

Nove Cvetanoski

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