The Goals and Methods of Russian Paleography

One of my previous blog posts (Deciphering Medieval Cyrillic for Russian SCA Calligraphy) provided a basic overview for SCA use of medieval Cyrillic letters, numbers, and punctuation, as well as a couple examples of two medieval Russian hands, called ustav and poluustav (or ustav/semi-ustav). I’ve been interested for a while now about learning more on the subject of Russian paleography, and recently came upon a textbook written in 1918 by V.N. Schepkin on Slavonic/Russian paleography. Below is my translation of the introductory chapter from this textbook, which covers the general goals and methods of paleography, as well as some interdictions against some logical traps that students of paleography can fall into. The language is on the scholarly end, so it was a difficult translation; some of the words used are also using archaic meanings that have been replaced in modern Russian, which made some passages a bit confusing at first, and required me to do some digging online for older meanings of those words.

(This exercise also has me looking into how to present words in medieval Slavic fonts on my blog — which took me about an afternoon of websearches for medieval fonts, webhosting information, HTML updates, and a few back and forths with my webhosting platform to troubleshoot why the font files kept returning 404 errors, but it’s finally working!)

A Textbook of Russian Paleography
Chapter 1: Goals and Methods

A translation of Щепкин, В.Н. «Цели и метод палеографии.» Учебник русской палеографии. Москва, 1918. с. 1-11. / Schepkin, V.N. “Tseli i metod paleografii.” Uchebnik russkoj paleografii. Moscow, 1918. pp. 1-11.

[Translation by John Beebe, known in the Society for Creative Anachronism as Master Ivan Matfeevich Rezansky, OL.]

[Translator’s notes: I’ve done my best to convey both the meaning and style from the original. Comments in square brackets and footnotes labeled “jeb” are my own. This document may contain specialized vocabulary related to embroidery, archeology, Eastern Orthodoxy, or Russian history; see this vocabulary list for assistance with some of these terms. This translation was done for my own personal education, and is provided here as a free resource for members of the Society for Creative Anachronism who may be interested in this topic but are unable to read Russian. I receive no compensation or income for this work. If you like this translation, please take a look at other translations I have made available on my blog.]

[The article in the original Russian can be found here:Файл:Щепкин В.Н. Учебник русской палеографии. (1918) — цветной.pdf.]

Medieval Slavic letters are shown in BukyVede font, cf.

A Textbook of Russian Paleography

Chapter 1: Goals and Methods (this post)
Chapter 2: Old Slavonic Language and the Slavonic Alphabets
Chapter 3: Dialects
Chapter 4: Materials and Writing Tools
Chapter 5: Ligatures (Vyaz’)
Chapter 6: Ornamentation
Chapter 7: Miniatures
Chapter 8: Watermarks
Chapter 9: Cyrillic Hands
Chapter 10: Russian Hands in Parchment Manuscripts
Chapter 11: South-Slavic Writing
Chapter 12: South-Slavic Influence on Russia
Chapter 13: Russian Poluustav Script
Chapter 14: Skoropis’
Chapter 15: Steganography (Tajnopis’)
Chapter 16: Numbers and Dates
Chapter 17: Verification of Dates
Chapter 18: Descriptions of Manuscripts
Appendix: Slavonic and Russian Chronology

Chapter 1: Goals and Methods

Paleography[1]The term “paleography” comes from the Greek word palaiós “ancient” and gráphō “I write.” It was created by the founder of scientific paleography, Bernard de Montfaucon (1655-1741). is a supplementary discipline of a historical-philological type, studying written works from the outside with the goal of determining their time and place of creation. Slavic paleography considers the writing of three Orthdox Slavic peoples: Serbs, Bulgarians, and Russians. If by “written works” we consider any written expression of human thought on surfaces, then the field of paleography can include, in addition to literary works, also diplomatic works, coins, seals, as well as inscriptions carved on stone and other hard materials. In addition, we could include in this sphere all works of pictorial art, as well as all bas-relief sculpture. All of these categories of works contain human thought expressed using visual marks on surfaces. One can really speak of a paleography of art, keeping in mind that the style and content of artistic forms vary by epoch and country, and thus answer questions of when and where. But typically paleography is limited to the study of indicators of human language applied to a surface using some kind of colored substance. This restriction is purely artificial, but entails a very practical classification of material: written works, carved or hammered and located on various common items make up instead the realm of epigraphy [jeb; the study of carved inscriptions]; paleography deals only with manuscripts and books. For practical reasons, the material of both disciplines is subject to another limitation: coins and seals (in which, in essence, we study not raised marks, but the marks created by dies) are separated into the special disciplines of numismatics and sphragistics, while written diplomatic and legal works (charters) are studied by diplomatics; all of these items serve not higher ecclesiastical goals, but rather various practical goals. Numismatics, sphragistics, and diplomatics are broken into special disciplines as supplemental branches of history, and serve to establish the personages, events, institutions and relations of the past, and in this way, explore these works not only from the outside. From the outside, these same works don’t stop being objects of epigraphy and paleography, which serve as supplemental disciplines for all of the historical-philological sciences. Broadly, the scope of paleography is largely determined by its main purpose: to elucidate the time and place of creation of written works of human speech. The practical need to highlight epigraphy into a separate discipline mainly affects classical philology due to the abundance of surviving ancient inscriptions and the limited quantity of surviving ancient manuscripts. In Slavic philology, we see the exact opposite.

We call paleography a discipline, rather than a scientific historical-philological cycle. We take this from the old definition: “science is a system of knowledge, giving us the ability to predict the future.” Paleography is a system of knowledge, but it is focused on the past and has its own exclusive goal of answering the question of where and when a work was written. Along with paleography, the science of written history is based on the same material, a science which averts the general laws by which the visual designation of human thought develops. The history of writing predicts successive steps in this development and indicates the direction in which existing alphabets and orthographies should develop. If, alongside generalized sciences, we also consider the registering sciences, then along with the history of writing, we should also look at the external history of writing made up by the history of manuscripts and books.

The property method of paleography consists of inductive, generalized observation of written indicators of dated manuscripts, and through deductive means of observation of undated manuscripts: manuscripts of a given time (dated) are placed in chronological order, and their characters are studied based on their appearance, changes, disappearance, and replacement by other characters; in this way, we discover that the well-known types of specific letters and other data, known abbreviations, known common handwriting features, and known decorations are peculiar exclusively to a particular time period, and in this manner, they allow us to distinguish this epoch from the nearest preceding or subsequent period. Undated manuscripts with well known sets of characteristics can be attributed by the paleographer to that time period which has the same characteristics in dated manuscripts. This time period may span decades, quarter centuries, a century, or several centuries, and may include the entire territory of a given kind of writing, or only a particular part of that territory. As such, these characteristics studied by the paleographer may be wider or narrower. It is clear that the more specific an indicator, the more valuable it is, for it points to a more accurate date. Both general and specific paleographic characteristics remain generalized, that is, systematically repeated within a specific time period. Particular or chance characteristics common to an individual work and then unencountered elsewhere are celebrated by the paleographer as facts awaiting explanation, but they do not possess any direct methodological meaning. It is clear that as part of these “characteristics,” we include “any visible markers containing an indirect indication of time or place.” In Western paleography, these markers are called “dates”. But we shall preserve the word “date” in its original meaning as digits containing a direct indication of when an item was created.”

The paleographic method is based on that general observation of this history of writing, in that generally accepted written indicators do not remain static; they are subject to evolution and “revolution.” They may either gradually change, or they may be quickly replaced by marks of a completely different character, borrowed from outside or reinvented anew from the past. Slavic-Russian paleography is aware of several “revolutionary” time periods: the change from the Glagolitic alphabet (Rus. глаголица, glagolitsa) to the Cyrillic alphabet (Rus. кириллица, kirillitsa) (10th-12th century), the period of South Slavic influence on Russia (14th-15th century), the introduction of the civil alphabet (early 18th century). Not all written marks are equally capable of evolution: for example, the letters К (“K”) and Л (“L”) changed little over the course of Slavic-Russian writing, while Ч (“Ch”) changed nonstop by time period and location. The most volatile letters provide the paleographer with the most valuable chronological and territorial indicators.

The most complete paleographic method is to determine the time period when a written work was created; the location of their creation is much less commonly and less precisely determined. Of course, by determining the accurate dating of a manuscript of one and the same writing culture by the location of their creation, we also draw general conclusions about the relatively local, territorial peculiarities of these graphics. But territorial markers are far less numerous and accurate than chronological traits, for in one and the same written culture there is an interaction of local characteristics where one locale’s set of peculiarities disappears, while others are limited in their territory or spread beyond their borders. In the latter case, one and the same graphic peculiarity may early on characterize one territory, and a bit later, a different one. Take for example in Russia the green coloring of ornamentation, which in the 13th century was widely used across all of Rus’, but in the 14th century was limited only to the Novgorodian state. We also see cases where the writing of one people may influence that of another: written phenomena may, with a certain delay, spread from one written culture to another. In Slavic-Russian paleography, this latter case is quite common, since before the Turkish yoke[2]jeb; 1396-1878, a period when Bulgaria fell under Ottoman rule and stagnated, much as Rus’ did under the Tatars. and fall of the South-Slavic state, Russian writing never ceased to be influenced by South Slavic writing, and at times this influence became quite strong (10th-11th and 14th-15th centuries). It has been established that these borrowed features in Russian writing took effect on average 100 years later than they arose among the Southern Slavs. This average gap was empirically established based on surviving manuscripts, and in no way indicates that Russo-Balkan relations were rare or slow. This is due to the fact that the first generations of manuscripts to include a new mark were few and therefore have not survived, but numerous surviving manuscripts with the same characteristic can be dated based on that same characteristic, it appears, to the same time period, when that symbol managed to spread into Russian territory. As such, the time was spent not so much on the transfer as on the spread of these new marks over the extensive Russian territory with its scattered cultural centers.

In any event, in Russian paleography there are many such graphical markings which were already known a century earlier among the South Slavs, for example, the letter Ч (“ch”) points to Bulgaria and Serbia of the 14th century, but the 15th century in Russia. Under such conditions, it is methodologically necessary first to determine the location where a manuscript was written, then the date it was written. The location where a Russian or South Slavic manuscript was written can be determined based on the language, and only then are we able to judge which time period is indicated by a letter such as Ч. As such, one of our two basic questions of Slavic-Russian paleography is answered not by our own methods, but through linguistics, as we will describe in more detail below in the chapter about tricks or redactions. We will note here that in such a written culture as Church Slavonic, where each scribe contributed to the text the peculiarities of his own city, linguistics usually defines quite accurately the scribe’s native language, and therefore in a large majority of cases indicates the location where a manuscript was written. That is, based on probability, we accept as a rule that if a manuscript contains Serbian traits, then it was written in Serbia; if it contains Russian traits, then it was written in Rus’, and so forth. In practice, exceptions from this rule are really quite rare, with the main exception being that many Serbian, Bulgarian and Russian scribes wrote not in their own homeland but in one of the monasteries on Mt. Athos, or that a Russian scribe lived in Constantinople, where up until the sack of the city there was a large, active Russian colony. Linguistics can also shed light also when a work was created, but this can be inaccurate due to the presence of numerous concerns in both written and verbal language, for example in vocabulary.

Since the proper methodology for paleography is relatively narrow, this discipline often relies widely on the help of other branches of historical and philological science to verify its findings. As we have seen, the assistance of linguistics is especially important for paleography. The paleographer uses the aid of art history in the study of ornament and miniatures found in written works, and through the close connection between Slavic-Russian miniatures and iconography, he often ends up resorting to the latter as well. The paleographer enjoys the help of history when studying a chronicle (that is, a recording of the time when the manuscript was written) and various other recordings of history (e.g., property rolls, bills of sale, deposits, purchase receipts, commemorations, etc.), and the historical names which are equally mentioned in records or in the chronicles themselves, and the dates which can be determined from them. The paleographer uses diplomatics when verifying the formulae of notations, and literary history is used to define to composition of a written work and the time when its constituent literary works were created. In all of these cases, the paleographer clearly does not limit himself to the study of only one outer aspect of the works, and transcends the limits of his own scientific approach. But whatever help the paleographer makes use of, he also brings his own particular method. He tests the facts of history, literature, and art to reach the strongest chronological and territorial classification, in order to answer those basic questions of paleography: why and where.

During this effort, the paleographer constantly has in mind that the materials explored by the historical-philological sciences includes numerous concerns: the ornamentation of a Russian manuscript might include 14th-15th century motifs, while its text might contain clauses from the 11th, 12th and 13th centuries; or, the ornament might have partly older South Slavic and partly newer Russian flavor, while the text might contain Serbian, Bulgarian and Russian items which arose at different times. In order to determine the time and place when a work was written, the paleographer must therefore weigh all of the attributes and be guided by the most recent date: the date of the very latest handwriting (that is, letter styles), as well as by the latest of the artistic motifs or literary works included in the manuscript, if he is concerned with time; or by the latest of the linguistics data (e.g., the language of the most recent of the work’s scribes) if one is concerned with the location of writing. Forgeries can be identified using the same method, and is only one special case of an answer to when and where. For example, a late 16th century manuscript containing three forms of the letter “E”: E (early), Ԑ (middle), and E (later) might belong to the Lithuanian-Russian state, where the letter E actually appears in the late 16th century, or if the work attests that it originated in Muscovy, then it might be counterfeit, given that the letter E appeared in Muscovy only during Petrine times. Of course a third possibility is also possible: the manuscript might have been created in Moscow by a West Russian or South Russian transplant; but outside a time period of heightened South Slavic influence on Moscow (up to the 17th century), the third option would seem quite unlikely, which the paleographer would be required to confirm using either attributes from the language itself, or from the dialect (Rus. извод, izvod) of the work itself (see the chapter on Dialects).

Various sciences of the historical-philological vein, in particular history and the history of literature, can sometimes date a manuscript with such accuracy as cannot be obtained through paleographic methods alone. For example, a Synodal (book of remembrances) which includes in its royal mentions the name of Peter I written in one set of older handwriting, then the name of Catherine I in a second, later handwriting, obviously arose between the years 1725-1727. The menealogy, which has an Easter index starting in 1672, was most likely written in this year or earlier. Sometimes, the time can be precisely determined by the chronicle itself (that is, through the scribe’s own recording about the time when the work was written), which might not contain the specific year, but which mentions two historical figures whose coexistence or joint activity lasted for only a few years; one such case would be a document or inscription containing the names of the Polish King Vladislav (ascended the throne in 1632) and Patriarch Filaret Nikitich (died 1633). A collection of articles written by a famous writer may obviously not have been written before a well-known date; one example might be a saint’s life which contains information about a miracle which occurred in 1690, and which obviously could not have been written earlier than that year. In this manner, undated manuscripts may be accurately dated using supplementary sciences and thereby increase the number of manuscripts dated to a certain year.

Weighing the characteristics (paleographic, artistic, historical, etc.) of a given work, the paleographer compares them and finds that these characteristics simply either confirm or contradict one another. Take for example parchment (Rus. пергамент, pergament) and the particular script known as ustav (Rus. устав, literally “charter”) which confirm one another, both pointing to the first four centuries of Russian writing (11th-14th centuries); parchment and the script known as poluustav (Rus. полуустав, “semi-Ustav”) are mutually restrictive: parchment indicates the 11th-14th centuries and at most the early 15th century, while poluustav indicates the late 14th-early 18th centuries. As such, when found together, these signs would point to the late 14th or early 15th century. Mutually restrictive signs are a most beneficial occurrence in paleography, as under this condition, the date of a manuscript can be determined extremely accurately. Contradictions must be reconciled using some reasonable hypothesis. For example, parchment and the script known as skoropis’ (Rus. скоропись, “cursive”) are mutually contradictive, as the former points to the 11th-14th centuries, while the latter points to the 16th-17th centuries. This contradiction can be reconciled by the fact that parchment was still used for letters in later years, or by the hypothesis that before us we have a record which was made in later times upon a blank space of an older parchment manuscript. Sometimes the date may prove to be older than might be expected based on the script; this might mean that we have before us a copy written simulating the hand from the original manuscript. Sometimes the hand seems later than a date which might be read in a manuscript; this might mean that we are looking at a hand of a vanishing generation, and that the manuscript was written by an elder. Finding in the manuscript that the script was an abbot or a bishop might allow us to confirm this theory. Sometimes the scribe purposefully writes in an outdated hand, for example if he is supplementing an ancient manuscript which has lost several pages, or if he is copying an ancient original. If the contradictions cannot be reconciled, we might determine that we have before us some unclear happenstance, or that it might even be a forgery. In the latter case, we must find some some proof of forgery, for example, signs of intentionally imitative, simulated antiquity, and at the same time, some evidence of a different time frame (usually modern). For example, in a manuscript which is attempting to appear ancient, the use of Prussian blue in the capitals reveals them as a forgery, given that this pigment was discovered only in the early 18th century. In a manuscript which by all signs appears to be from the second half of the 17th century, a record from the early 17th century might be a forgery if it turns out that the date’s tens digit has been scraped off and that under light, the digit is of a different color than the others. The paleographer also attempts to determine the goal of this forgery, which might be legal, commercial, or merely amateur. In Russia, forgeries and erasures of dates from the 17th century may have been done with Old Believer buyers in mind: by changing the letter И (=80) into Н (=50) or (more rarely) even К (=20), forgers convert a “post-Patriarch Nikon” work to a “pre-Nikon” work. If not merely an individual digit appears to be a forgery, but rather the entire chronicle, then verification of its formula and content is required. By the word formula, we mean the list of mentioned facts (for example, in a Chronicle, dates, names of rulers, names of hierarchs, etc.) and static terms which denote some other facts (for example, the name of a sovereign or boyar which does not end in “-vich,” a black clergyman’s name which does not have any patronymic, a female name with a patronymic ending in “-vna”, or even a Boyarina female named after her husband ending in “-na”, et. al.). Here, as everywhere else, we may encounter exceptions (difficult cases): Patriarch Filaret Nikitich continued to be titled with his patronymic, given that he was a boyar and parent of the sovereign. Editions of records are used to verify these formulae. Verification of content consists of comparing the date to the life dates of mentioned individuals, their titles can be confirmed from historical data, etc.

Let us turn now to the question of the accuracy of paleographic deductions. The question where, as we have seen, is usually determined in Slavic-Russian paleography through an analysis of language, which in many cases allows us to determine not only its country, but even its main dialect territory (see appendix I, sample excerpts). Hands, ornamentation, and miniatures, as we have seen, cannot solve this question, but in light of various experiences and moves from territory to territory, they often cannot even suggest the correct answer. As for the question when, our best paleographers, based on experience, believe that South Slavic and Russian manuscripts can be dated to within the half-century. This is, of course, only the outer limit, and in many cases we can achieve significantly greater accuracy. These inaccuracies can be explained first of all by the poor preservation of Slavic and Russian written items. Greek clergy burned entire libraries of Bulgarian manuscripts in the 19th century. In Moscow in 1382, during a sudden raid by the Tatars, the churches of the Kremlin were filled to the brim with manuscripts brought by the fleeing residents of the Moscow region, and the entire collection burned. Moscow manuscripts from the 14th century are, as a result, exceedingly rare. From the earliest days of Russian writing, only manuscripts dating to the second half of the 11th century have survived, and obviously an error of dating by 50 years is entirely possible in this case. Secondly, paleography extracts its data primarily from dated manuscripts, and those are only an insignificant percent of the overall volume of manuscripts from any given century. Finally, we have already seen how slowly new graphic data (including not only the appearance of individual new letters, new hands, and new styles of ornamentation, but even the appearance of Russian writing in general, its spread to new centers, and similar common phenomena) generalize over the large Russian territory. It is clear that all of these graphic data propagate through the copying of one or several initial manuscripts (protographs) which contain these characteristics. Direct copies from this protograph belonging to the first few decades after its appearance, of course, might be limited to a few dozen manuscripts; copies of copies which arise in subsequent decades number in the dozens; it is possible that over the course of a half century, a protograph might result in the region of 100 copies; and this number is not an exaggeration or true only for particularly widespread works. The protograph itself survives to modern day only in the form of the most uncommon happenstance; the majority of its immediate copies, numbering in the single digits or dozens, will also have perished. Only in the cases where a given protograph is represented by an order of a hundred copies might a few of them survive to modern day, and among those, there might be only one dated example. Obviously, the initial stages (or, more commonly, the first few dozen) of any given graphic form will not have survived to our paleographic studies. Even such a widespread phenomenon as the South Slavic influence from the 14th-15th centuries, initially represented by many South Slavic emigres and many manuscripts, and which can be be established by paleographic methods as a general fact, only reached the Moscow state in the second quarter of the 15th century, while history teaches us that this phenomenon intensified starting in the 1390s after the fall of the South Slavic states. Moreover, it is obvious that the paleographer is aware of only the largest or most common graphic characteristics which became widespread throughout the country. Graphic characteristics which spread slowly or which did not spread over the entire land might not survive to modern day for the same reason as the initial stages of more generalized phenomena, that is, the limited number of representative works. For each time period which is sufficiently represented by dated works, we will discover only the mainstream of handwriting. Specialized graphic schools, graphics limited to some closed-off sect, centers in remote regions, distinctly isolated dialects with their own specialized orthography — all of these remain completely unrepresented, or represented so fragmentarily that they do not rise to our consciousness. In addition, that which has survived, in Russia and among the Southern Slavs, and which has not yet been brought into the general knowledge or remains unpublished, is scattered over a huge territory or closed off in inaccessible locations. For the initial and, generally speaking, insufficiently represented time periods, it is fundamental for the paleographer to carefully reckon with chance. This can be understood from an extreme example: if a given time period is represented by only a single surviving work, we still consider it probable that it represents the majority, and not the minority of works from its time; but this probability is weakly supported. If a time period is represented by two, three, or a dozen uniform works, this probability quickly rises and finally approaches certainty.

The main methodological errors which the paleographer must avoid are most closely associated with the insufficiency of surviving paleographic material which, moreover, all relates to the past. These are, of course, special cases of the most common logical errors. These are, first of all, assertions of what has not survived to modern day (argumentum a silentio), and secondly, partial conclusions made from generalized theses which cannot be supported by the paleographic material itself (petitio principii). Take once again an extreme example: if a given time period is represented by only one parchment manuscript, we cannot assert that paper was not used just as frequently in that time. But if we consider the fact that from the 11th to the late 14th centuries, there is not a single dated manuscript written on paper among the hundreds of Russian manuscripts which have survived, can we assert that in this time period in Russia, books were written only parchment? The answer is once again no, although thanks to the large quantity of surviving material, the possibility of error is significantly reduced, as well as its possible volume: paper manuscripts in the specified time period obviously did not exist in significant numbers, and did not survive because they comprised a negligible percent of all manuscripts.[3]In fact, at the end of a given time period, for example 14th century, there may be individual Russian manuscripts written on paper, or on parchment interspersed with paper (such examples are indicated by specialists among undated manuscripts), while Russian charters on paper have survived from as early as the 1340s. The oldest dated Russian book written on paper is a copy of the Writings of St. Isaac the Syrian from 1381 (Trinity-Sergius Lavra, no. 172). But, the paleographer might reject this conclusion based on the lack of evidence and formulate based only on that which is known: “In the time period from the 11th-late 14th centuries, only parchment Russian manuscripts have survived,” or “from the beginning of Russian writing to the late 14th century, parchment was the common material for manuscripts.” Such a general conclusion from the paleographic material itself can be used for individual purposes. But, when using the aide of the historical-philological sciences deprived of an exact method due to the complexity of the material, paleography must proceed either from individual attested facts, or from conclusions of a specialized nature relying on very specialized material. We will not hesitate to date to the 11th century a Russian manuscript containing a well-known form of the letter Ѡ or which bears the name of an 11th century Russian prince, but such general considerations would be shaky as references to the calligraphic style of the era, due to the religious purpose of this writing, or due to the lack of literacy in the 11th century. The widespread use of parchment over the centuries and the changes in form of the letter Ѡ can be established statistically, but what do we know about the statistics of literacy in the 11th century? And wasn’t it a surprise for paleographers to learn that Yaroslav the Wise’s daughter Anna[4]Anna Yaroslavna was married to the French king Henry I. Having been widowed, and due to her son Philip I still being in early childhood, she acted as regent, and signed acts in Latin with the Cyrillic signature ана ръниа (ana r’nia), that is, “Anna, Queen.” was literate?

We should take as general rules that: 1) the absence of a particular characteristic does not indicate that the work was created earlier than the emergence of that characteristic; and 2) General theses of history, the history of literature, and art history cannot be used as the basis for individual paleographic conclusions.

Slavic-Russian paleography is divided into two main branches: main and auxiliary. The main branch examines 1) the material and writing tools, 2) the history of scripts and individual letters, or “hands” (Rus. начерк, nacherk). The auxiliary branch includes, primarily, the following topics, borrowing from various historical-philological sciences: 1) The Slavic alphabet, 2) Dialects of Slavic-Russian writing, 3) Ligatures (Rus. вязь, vjaz’), 4) Ornamentation, 5) Miniatures and iconography, 6) Chronology, and 7) Descriptions of manuscripts. The topic on the materials and tools for writing includes the subjects of ruling, binding, and watermarks. The topic on the history of hands also includes the subject of steganography (Rus. тайнопись, tajnopis’, “secret-writing”). For practical reasons, in this course, most of the auxiliary topics are preceded by the main topics as an introduction.


1 The term “paleography” comes from the Greek word palaiós “ancient” and gráphō “I write.” It was created by the founder of scientific paleography, Bernard de Montfaucon (1655-1741).
2 jeb; 1396-1878, a period when Bulgaria fell under Ottoman rule and stagnated, much as Rus’ did under the Tatars.
3 In fact, at the end of a given time period, for example 14th century, there may be individual Russian manuscripts written on paper, or on parchment interspersed with paper (such examples are indicated by specialists among undated manuscripts), while Russian charters on paper have survived from as early as the 1340s. The oldest dated Russian book written on paper is a copy of the Writings of St. Isaac the Syrian from 1381 (Trinity-Sergius Lavra, no. 172).
4 Anna Yaroslavna was married to the French king Henry I. Having been widowed, and due to her son Philip I still being in early childhood, she acted as regent, and signed acts in Latin with the Cyrillic signature ана ръниа (ana r’nia), that is, “Anna, Queen.”

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