Russian Old Believer Books Online

Harvard College Library holds a collection of 6 rare Old Believer books. The set includes one item published in 1651 (i. e. prior to the Patriarch Nikon’s church reform that led to the break between the official Russian Orthodox Church and the Old Believers, who remained faithful to the pre-Nikonean rite.). This book (Kanonnik”) serves as an example of a title that while not created by the Old Believers, was nevertheless considered by them as part of their religious and literary heritage.

Another gem of the collection is the 19th century handwritten Skazanīe o volʹnom stradanīi gospoda nashego Iisusa Khrista (a retelling of the passion of Christ based on the later chapters of the New Testament). The book is written in in black and red ink and decorated with ornamental headpieces.

Another 19th century item is a later copy of Trefologion, tretʹi͡a chetvertʹ (mart–maĭ) [Trefologion for March-May], mentioned by A.S. Zernova in her Knigi kirillovskoi pechati, izdannye v Moskve v XVI-XVII vekakh, under number 139.

The collection also includes 3 books in popular Old Believer genres of Torzhestvennik, Kanonnik and Sbornik, published in 1911-1916 by the Old Believer Preobrazhenskii monastery in Moscow.

The complete collection has been digitized within the framework of the Harvard College Library preservation digitization program. In an effort to provide the most complete visual information on these items we created scans of complete books, including the covers, spines and lining papers, as well as any owner’s ephemera found inside.

Back to Distinctive Collections.