Archive of Ancient Relics

Archive of Ancient Relics is a special division of Pushkinskij Dom that preserves the unique collection of Old Russian manuscripts and monuments of old print. The creation of Archive of Ancient Relics was initiated by professor Vladimir Ivanovich Malyshev, who already in 1930-ies had revived the search of old Russian manuscripts, was the permanent curator of the Archive (till 1976) and whose name the Archive bears now.

Archeographic expeditions became the main source of stocking of the Archive funds, first they were sent primarily to the Northern areas of the European part of this country. Later the geography of search was considerably expanded, however, at its base the collection is still an enormous peasant library of the Russian North. At present Archive of Ancient Relics preserves about 12 000 manuscripts dating back to XII-XVII cc. and manuscripts in the Old Russian tradition of XVIII-XX cc., representing all genres of Old Russian writing, as well as monuments of peasant hand-written texts (mostly by Old Believers) of the later time. Archive of Ancient Relics does not possess any monastery libraries but it has several family peasant libraries, originating from XVI-XVIII cc. Books from these libraries were, as we know now, copied by hand in village houses, bind, decorated with ornamental initial letters and illuminations. Among these especially valuable are the illustrated manuscripts decorated with book miniatures showing saints. Some pages look like a colour tapestry of sorts, in the center of which Sirin, a bird of paradise, is shown or an icon image of the Reverend monk inserted.

The collection of Archive of Ancient Relics possesses such unique monuments of Old Russian writing as Pustozersky collection of Zavoloko, containing autographs of the biographies of the archpriest Abbakum and monk Epifanij and Abbakum's polemic drawing; Word of Perdition of Russian Land in a XVI c. collection; Archangelogorodsky and Pinezhskij regional chronicles; New Testament copied by sister of Peter the Great Sofija Alekseevna; the only known fragment of the "dofedorovsky" edition of the Triodion (Triad' tsvetnajd) in the manuscript of XVI c.; collections of proverbs and sayings of the XVII-XVIII cc. and many other book and manuscript relics often existing in a single or two copies.

Peasants living in the areas of Pechora, Severnaja Dvina, Pinega, Mezhen', Vologda, Karelija often were literal in both Church (Slavonic) and civil languages. That's why the expeditions often brought "extra" materials: peasants' letters, diaries, documents from the family archives that had been kept in some households for centuries. Archive of Ancient Relics has the richest collection of peasants' everyday and official papers of the last two centuries.

Manuscript materials of Archive of Ancient Relics are divided into three groups: territorial collections; personal collections; fund of separate acquisitions. Thus manuscripts brought by the archeographic expeditions from, say, Severnaja Dvina, Karelija or Prichud'e were included, respectively, into Severodvinskoe, Karel'skoe and Prichudskoe collections. Now Archive of Ancient Relics keeps 17 territorial collections comprising more than 6 000 manuscripts of the XII-XX cc. Collections are given the names of their collectors. All in all 34 collections are now concentrated in Archive of Ancient Relics, the largest of them is collection of academician V. N. Perets (672 manuscripts of the XII-XIX cc.). The fund of separate acquisitions is subdivided into manuscripts with literary and historical content, collections and collective manuscripts, clergy manuscripts and documentary materials. Their total number does not exceed 800 items.

Along with manuscript materials Archive of Ancient Relics possesses a relatively small (386 items) collection of books in Kirillovsky print, popular print (lubok) and hectographic editions as well as wall sheets and samples of writing.

V. I. Malyshev's students and successors have held about 30 all-Russian scientific conferences — the so-called "Malyshev's Readings", devoted to the study of territorial collections and personal funds kept in Archive of Ancient Relics. The collection served as a basis for publication of Old Russian texts and numerous studies, printing of albums and catalogues.

Major publications are: Malyshev V. I. Ust'-Tsilemskie rukopisnie sborniki XVI-XX cc. Syktyvkar, 1960; Drevnerusskie rukopisi Pushkinskogo Doma. (Obzor fondov) / Sost. V. I. Malyshev. Leningrad, Moscow, 1965; Rukopisnoe nasledie Drevnej Rusi. Po materialam Pushkinskogo Doma. (Literatura 1965-1974 gg.) / Sost. V. I. Malyshev. Leningrad, 1978; Drevnerusskaja knizhnost'. Sbornik nauchnyh trudov po materialam Pushkinskogo Doma. Leningrad, 1985; Drevlehranilische Pushkinskogo Doma. Materialy i issledovanija. Leningrad, 1990; Prorisi i perevody ikon iz sobranija Pushkinskogo Doma / Sost. G. V. Markelov. St. Petersburg, 1998; Pinezhskaja knizhno-rukopisnaja traditsija XVI — nachala XX vv. Opyt issledovanija. T. 1: Istochniki / Sost. N. V. Saveljeva. St. Petersburg, 2003.