Progress in the Description of the Pogodin Collection

Daniel Waugh Discussion

Posted by Daniel C. Waugh <>

Progress in the description of the Pogodin Collection

Rukopisnye knigi sobraniia M. P. Pogodina. Katalog. Vyp. 5. [Sost./red. E. E. Shevchenko]. Sankt-Peterburg: Rossiiskaia natsional’naia biblioteka, 2014. 162 pp. ISBN 5-8192-0480-1.

The appearance of the latest volume of the catalogue of the manuscript books in the Collection of M. P. Pogodin housed in the Russian National Library is an occasion for taking stock of the progress in this long-term project. The famous historian Pogodin’s collection, which he sold to the library in 1852, numbers 2105 books and is recognized as one of the most important collections of early Slavic manuscripts. Its proper description has long been a desideratum. A. F. Bychkov published a detailed catalog of a few dozen of the more interesting miscellanies in the late 19th century, one lacking what by modern standards would be essential codicological data. Klimentina Ivanova described the South Slavic manuscripts in the collection at a time when the project undertaken in the second half of the 20th century to produce a full modern catalog of all the manuscripts had floundered (much to the consternation of D. S. Likhachev). The first volume of the current catalog (in the sequential numbering of the manuscripts) finally appeared in 1988, following guidelines developed by V. M. Zagrebin, who then, until his untimely death in 2004, oversaw the publication of the two subsequent volumes. Volume 4 appeared in 2010; with the most recent one, we now have descriptions of manuscripts Nos. 1-942. Since the latest volume is slender (compared to the previous ones), covering only Nos. 874-942, most of its descriptions compiled by B. A. Gradova (now retired) and the late V. M. Zagrebin, one might well wonder when the project will reach its conclusion. 

            The catalog has proceeded in the order of Pogodin’s own numbering and approximate thematic organization, the current volume now having reached the pateriki and various miscellanies associated with particular monasteries or including accounts about miracle-working icons. The texts generally are well-known ones, though the cataloging has turned up one or two welcome surprises. Twenty-five of the 69 books described here were ones acquired by Pogodin from the historian and archaeographer P. M. Stroev, with at least one annotation of his indicating whence he had taken (stolen?) the manuscript. In a number of other cases, Pogodin’s annotations indicate from whom he purchased a manuscript.

            The format of the descriptions follows that of the earlier volumes, which seems to be adequate at least to identify individual texts (incipits are given and indexed). Significant inscriptions are quoted in full. Basic codicological information has been provided. That is, we find general description of hands, bindings, foliation and signatures, and watermarks. However, for the last, we have merely listings of each “type” (referenced to standard albums), arranged, it seems, alphabetically by standard descriptive terms, with no effort to indicate precisely all the folios on which is found any given paper. Only vol. 3 of the catalog included tracings of watermarks, those found in dated manuscripts. While an attempt was made in the previous volume to expand bibliographic citations for individual works in a manuscript, including references to analytical studies, the decision now has been made to include only citations of basic descriptions, since the expanded references were deemed somewhat arbitrary and incomplete. In general, what we have then is pretty normal these days for many manuscript descriptions, somewhat barebones. I am not in a position to check on the accuracy of the information, but have high regard for the expertise of those who have done the work.

Unfortunately though, we cannot learn much here about the particular copies of individual texts. The formatting of the information can make it difficult for a user to reconstruct a precise idea of the structure of the manuscript if it contains several hands and papers. While in a few cases the descriptions note that the same copyist(s) were responsible for more than one of the books, ideally, of course, we would wish for a much larger, computerized database that could assist in placing the individual books (and their often separate components) in a larger comparative context. Ideally we would have images of the hands and watermarks, something which the most recent computer and scanning technology (available in RNB) makes possible.  I guess we must be thankful for what we are getting though, given what I assume are serious limitations of available staffing and funding for projects such as this one. Likhachev was expressing his dissatisfaction with its progress nearly half a century ago. It would be interesting to see where it has gone half a century from now. I can’t expect to be here to witness its completion.