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The Nature and Types of Old Russian Manuscripts


What exactly are Old Russian manuscripts? The most widespread type of manuscript with literary materials is the miscellany. The scribe copied various works onto quires which were then bound by the scribe himself or a binder.

It also happened that the binder took quires written at different times by different scribes and bound them all together simply because they were similar in size or content, etc. These collections of manuscripts copied by different scribes at different times are usually called convolutes.

Miscellanies written by one scribe are divided into those with a definite, i.e., traditional, content, such as The Stream of Gold, The Emerald, and the Festal Sermons, and collections with an indefinite content that reflected the personal tastes and interests of the scribe who wrote them, selecting the material for himself or the person who commissioned them.

Large works could be copied and bound into separate volumes: some chronicle compilations, works on world history, paterica, liturgical writings, prologues, and so on. But works such as the Supplication of Daniel the Exile or The Lay of the Ruin of the Russian Land, were too small to constitute a whole book.

Manuscripts that have survived in unbound form are mainly later ones, of the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, with Old Russian materials. But they are few in number and in poor condition, evidently because they were not valued and carefully preserved.