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Feb 25 26 tweets 9 min read
All six Ukrainian Presidents since 1991, including Volodymyr Zelensky, have taken the oath of office on this book: the 16th century Peresopnytsia Gospels [Ukrainian: Пересопницьке Євангеліє], one of the most remarkably illuminated of all surviving East Slavic manuscripts. 1/ Image
The Peresopnytsia Gospels were written between 15 August 1556 and 29 August 1561, at the Monastery of the Holy Trinity in Iziaslav, and the Monastery of the Mother of God in Peresopnytsia, Volyn'. The scribe was Mykhailo Vasyl’ovych, son of an archpriest from Sianik. 2/ Image
The Peresopnytsia Gospels are held in the Vernadsky National Library of Ukraine, in Kyiv. Its collection holds more than 15 million items, making it the 20th-largest library in the world. 3/ Image
This manuscript is the earliest complete surviving example of a vernacular Old Ukrainian translation of the Gospels. Its richly ornamented miniatures belong to the very highest achievements of the artistic tradition of the Ukrainian and Eastern Slavonic icon school. 4/ Image
The Peresopnytsya Gospels were commissioned in 1556 by Princess Nastacia Yuriyivna Zheslavska-Holshanska of Volyn, and her daughter and her son-in-law, Yevdokiya and Ivan Fedorovych Czartoryski. After its completion the book was kept in the Peresopnytsya Monastery. 5/ Image
This is Matthew 19:1 from the Peresopnytsia Gospels. The word "ukrainy" (оукраины) in this excerpt corresponds to "coasts" (KJV Bible) or "region" (NIV Bible). 6/ Image
The manuscript mentions the name of the monk Hryhoriy, Archimandrite of Peresopnytsia, who was responsible for the translation into Old Ukrainian. The scribe records that he prayed day and night that "the Lord will allow him to see his end." 7/ Image
The Peresopnytsia Gospels were translated into Old Ukrainian from the Church Slavonic language of the Bulgarian edition. The Gospel of Luke is the closest to the vernacular. The work also uses Greek and West Slavic, most likely Polish, source texts. 8/ Image
The content of the manuscript is the traditional Orthodox Four Gospels, but the text, in the typical Western Slavic tradition, is divided into chapters each of which begins with a summary of the coming chapter, as well as extensive glosses. 9/ Image
The last entry in the Peresopnytsia monastery inventory for this Gospel book dates back to 1600. Most probably, the Gospels were kept there until 1630, when the monastery, together with its property and land, passed into the possession of the Jesuits. 10/ ImageImage
Apparently, after the Peresopnytsia monastery became a Jesuit college, the Gospel book was taken away by Orthodox monks. It's fate in this next period is unclear, but almost 150 years later, thanks to an entry in Latin at the beginning of the manuscript, we learn.... 11/ ImageImage
..... that on April 16, 1701, Ivan Stepanovych Mazepa, Hetman of the Zaporizhian Host in 1687–1708 donated this book to the Pereyaslav Cathedral, built at his own expense. Purportedly, when Hetman Mazepa was in Volhynia, the manuscript was given to him by local Cossacks. 12/ Image
Hetman of the Zaporizhian Host (Ukrainian: Гетьман Війська Запорозького) was the title of the ruler of the Cossack Hetmanate, a state which existed in what is today Central Ukraine from 1648 to 1764. 13/ Image
In a fascinating example of how Ukrainian history is indelibly intertwined with the history of both Europe and the Near East, the same Hetman, Ivan Stepanovych Mazepa, was a key sponsor of the Ottoman Empire's first Arabic script printing press in Aleppo. 14/ HT @antonhowes Image
For a century, the Gospels were regularly used at Pereyaslav Cathedral. When the Ukrainian Church finally fell under the control of the Russian Synod and Russian bishops were appointed, these Ukrainian Gospels were transferred to the library as "unnecessary for worship." 15/ Image
In the early 19th century, the book was in the library of the Pereyaslav Theological Seminary, where the poet Taras Shevchenko saw it in 1845, when he inspected it on behalf of the Kyiv Archaeological Commission and noted in particular the Ukrainian language of the text. 16/ Image
In 1862, the seminary - and its library - was transferred from Pereyaslav to Poltava. The book was removed from the seminary library by order of the Minister of Education and Chief Prosecutor of the Holy Synod, Count D. Tolstoy. 17/
He reported it as an important historic relic to the Russian Emperor Alexander II, who arranged for it to be bought by Grand Duke Peter Georgievich, Prince of Oldenburg. After the Prince's death the book was returned to the seminary library. 18/
In the early twentieth century, the manuscript was transferred to the Poltava library. Here it was studied by the literary critic VM Peretz (1870–1935) and the philologist and paleographer OS Gruzinsky (1881–1954). 19/
During the Second World War, in 1941, as the German forces approached Poltava, the head of the local museum put the Peresopnytsia Gospels in a porcelain box, and evacuated them to Ufa in Bashkortostan. 70,000 volumes that remained in Poltava were destroyed by bombing. 20/ Image
After the war, the Peresopnytsia Gospels ended up in the Kyiv-Pechersk Lavra, the historic Kyiv Monastery of the Caves, where the book initially lay unrecognized. In 1948, it was rediscovered and transferred to the Vernadsky National Library in Kyiv, where it still remains. 21/ Image
It's this library, in the heart of Kyiv, which is right now, today, under direct threat of Russian missiles and bombs. 22/ Image
The Peresopnytsia Gospels have become a political symbol of the Ukrainian nation - every President of Ukraine has sworn his oath of office on the Peresopnytsia Gospels during his inauguration. At the moment of the oath, the President lays his hand on this Gospels.... 23/ Image
and he promises to be faithful not only to the laws of Man, but also to the laws of God:

"I undertake to defend the sovereignty and independence of Ukraine in all my affairs , to care for the good of the Fatherland and the welfare of the Ukrainian people...." 24/ Image
"to defend the rights and freedoms of citizens, to abide by the Constitution of Ukraine and the laws of Ukraine, to fulfill my duties, and to raise the authority of Ukraine in the world." 25/
Thank you for reading what's become a very long thread. Please keep the people of Kyiv and of all Ukraine in your thoughts, and in your prayers. 26/

Слава Україні! Героям слава! Image

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More from @incunabula

Feb 26
The Vernadsky National Library of Ukraine (Ukrainian: Національна бібліотека України імені В.І. Вернадського) was established in Kyiv in 1918, and is now ranked as one of the world's top 20 largest national libraries.

This is its story. 1/ Image
The library was established on 2 August 1918 by Hetman Pavlo Skoropadskyi as the 'National Library of the Ukrainian State' (Natsionalna biblioteka Ukrayinskoyi Derzhavy). The first head of the 'Provisional Committee on Creation of the National Library' was Vladimir Vernadsky. 2/ Image
The library was originally located in temporary housing - the St. Princess Olga Gymnasium - until 1919. 3/ Image
Read 22 tweets
Feb 24
"A Magnum Opus Beyond Measure: Yongle's Encyclopaedia Enigma". This is the catalogue of an exhibition held at the National Library of China in Beijing in 2018 and then at the Shenzhen Nanshan Museum in early 2020. 1/ ImageImage
The catalogue explores the history of the production of the two versions of this Chinese cultural icon, the Yongle Dadian (Yongle Encyclopaedia), under the Yongle and Jiajing emperors of the Ming dynasty. 2/ Image
It allso includes many associated rare printed and manuscript works related to the Encyclopaedia, and tells the story of the ongoing efforts by China to reclaim the scattered extant fascicles following the destruction by fire of the Hanlin Library in 1900. 3/ Image
Read 4 tweets
Dec 29, 2021
A large and luxurious finely-bound 18th century Qur’an, written in black and red in very fine naskhi in an austere, entirely undecorated style, described by Maggs in 1939 as "in the style peculiar to the islands of the Indian Ocean." Possibly originating from the Maldives. 1/
The binding is 18th century red Morocco with a fore-edge flap, very elaborately gilt-tooled with floral designs. The design shows some non-Islamic influences, and may have been executed in a workshop in southern India, possibly one attached to a mission press. 2/
It's a massive tome, 650 folios, on good quality burnished unwatermarked paper, almost certainly of Indian manufacture. The essentially complete absence of any decoration throughout is unusual and very striking. 3/
Read 12 tweets
Dec 27, 2021
Kyffin: A Celebration - Gwasg Gregynog, 2007.
Bound by Stuart Brockman in 2007 in translucent vellum over an original watercolour painting and tooled with chimney smoke in palladium, punctuated with gilt diamond shaped tooling; deep blue and silver patterned endpapers. 1/ Image
A tribute to Kyffin Williams's art with a striking image of a Welsh village stretching across both boards.
Brockman has here brought the "vellucent" technique of translucent vellum over painted boards - first developed by Chivers of Bath around 1903 - into the 21st century. 2/ ImageImageImage
The Bath bookbinder Cedric Chivers first patented his "vellucent" method of art-bookbinding in 1898. An artist would paint on a thin surface medium; then a sheet of vellum, shaved to translucent thinness, was laid over it, giving the underlying painting a luminous warmth. 3/ Image
Read 5 tweets
Dec 4, 2021
An unusual Somali Qur’an section, copied in a script quite distinct from the majuscule Arabic scripts used either along the Swahili coast or in West Africa, carefully but austerely written by an unnamed holy man in the town of Afgoi in the late 19th or early 20th century. 1/
The text is presented as a continuous block, 10 lines of thick majuscule per page, intended for a reader familiar enough with the Qur’an that it foregoes division markers of any kind - there are no marginal division markers, surah headings, or verse markers. 2/
There's a half-page of Arabic prayers on f.1r and two Italian inscriptions at the end: the first records that this Qur’an section was copied by a holy man in the town of Afgoi in Nov. 1911; the second is a presentation inscription from Dr. Carlo Bottari, dated 17 August 1912. 3/
Read 4 tweets

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