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At present, the Moscow Kremlin Museums conserves over five hundred manuscript books and early printed books.

The earliest one in the collection is a handwritten Greece Gospel, dating back to the 13th century. The latest specimens are printed books from the early 20th century. There are only sixty manuscripts, but all of them are unique. A lot of handwritten books, including those on parchment, are richly adorned with miniatures, colourful figured initials and vignettes. Illuminated books include such fine examples of Russian manuscripts as illustrated Lectionary from the Assumption Cathedral of the Moscow Kremlin (first quarter of the 15th century), the Godunov’s Book of Psalms (late 16th century), “Book on the Election to the Most Supreme Throne of the Sovereign, Tsar and Grand Prince Mikhail Fyodorovich”, “Alphabet” by Karion Istomin (second part of the 17th century), and some others.

The main part of the collection consists of early printed books in the Cyrillic alphabet. The oldest printed book in the Kremlin’s collection is the Book of Psalms edited by print worker Makary in Montenegro in 1494. Books printed at the Moscow Printing House prevail in the collection, but there are also editions of printing houses of such cities as Kiev, Lvov, Vilno. Books are illustrated with prints and generously adorned with an engraved ornament. In some cases the ornament is coloured by hand with paint and gold. The majority of editions are church books, such as Gospels, Apostles, Psalms, Priest’s Service Books, Book of Hours etc. because of the repertory of printing houses.

There is also a small number of secular books in the collection, such as “Essay on Rhetoric” (manuscript from the 17th century), a manual on military science "Training and Strategy of Infantry Man" (translation of Johann Jacobi von Wallhausen’s work) – the first Russian printed secular book, “Grammar” by Melety Smotritsky (1648), and some others. The books have artistic bindings made of wood or cardboard covered with fabric or leather (often with gold or silver embossing). Metal cover is typical for the Holy Scriptures. Precious covers of Gospels of a significant artistic value were made in different epochs by Russian jewellers, including masters of the Moscow Kremlin workshops. The major part of items comes from cathedrals and monasteries of the Moscow Kremlin. However, the collections have not retained their autonomy.

 

Explore the collection of the Moscow Kremlin Museums online

 
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