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Printed Monuments at the Museum of the Holy Bible

Home to some 800 Bibles from around the world, the newly established Museum of the Holy Bible will be displaying 300 of its most valuable Bibles, some dating back to the 16th century, at the St Joseph of Volokolamsk monastery situated 70 miles northwest of Moscow. Overseen by Moscow University professor Irina Pozdeyeva, the museum offers insight into the fascinating history of Christianity in Russia. One of the collections most prized items is the 2,000 page Bible produced by Ivan Fyodorov, widely considered to have been a pioneer of printing in Russia, in the year 1581 and featuring the ancient Slavonic language used by the Russian Orthodox Church.

Professor Posdeyeva has spent much of her career searching for items such as these Bibles, which she refers to as the "printed monuments of Russian culture". These "printed monuments" will be on display to the public in an extension of the monastery which was built specifically for this purpose. Among the items on display will be an 18th century volume with a portrait of the luxuriously-clad daughter of Peter the Great, Russian Empress Elizabeth I, adorning the book's frontispiece. A book commissioned by the first tsar of the Romanov dynasty, Tsar Mikhail Fyodorovich, will also be on display, as will a large 1663 Bible displaying what was likely one of the first maps of Moscow, detailing the Kremlin, the Moscow River and surrounding residential areas. More recent additions to the collection include holy books illustrated by French artist Gustave Dore, as well as drawings by controversial Spanish artist Salvador Dalí, better known for his surrealist paintings than for his illustrations.

The founder of the late 15th-century monastery, St Joseph of Volokolamsk, was a collector of old books and had reportedly around 1,000 handwritten Bibles in his collection, the majority of which landed up in museums when the monastery was closed. When the monastery was returned to the Moscow Patriarchy of the Orthodox Church in 1989, the prior at the time started collecting Bibles again, many of which will be on display in the Museum of the Holy Bible near Moscow.


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