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Symbola et emblemata.

Since the XVI-th century symbols and emblems have enjoyed wide popularity in Europe, it was one of the favorite genres of literature. There are lots of similar editions in foreign literature. According to concepts of that time an emblem is the conditional image of idea in figure or plastic, and the symbol expressed the same idea in words not necessary being the description of this emblem. For example, in edition «Symbols and emblemats» of 1705 there may be three times met three different engravings showing the emblem of the hedgehog and three different symbols thereto namely: «Honor and fortress are all on the weapon», «There are as many weapons as there are many enemies» and «Be afraid of me all round». The turtle emblem can be met twice with different symbols: «With patience you will see termination to all affairs» and «Little be little». The arms and mottos thereto used to be chosen out of symbols and emblems, from them there used to be taken subjects for transparencies and fireworks in XVII — XVIII centuries. Also in Russia some themes for transparencies and pictures on solemn gates used to be taken from «Symbols and emblemats». Before there was issued the Amsterdam edition in 1705 they were directly borrowed from La Fey editions. The emblem (in Amsterdam edition №204) — the beaver sapping under a tree — was used for fireworks on January 1, 1703 after capturing Notebourg, and the emblem №102 — the suspended lion with the symbol «Let it governing» — was used in fireworks on January 1, 1710, after the Poltava victory. The emblem №115 showing the rake on a field «collecting the scattered» — is reproduced on the transparency during the fireworks on January 1, 1704. The engravings of these fireworks are placed in the «Mars Book». In Russia names for the ships of the Azov fleet that was built starting from 1696 were taken from the La Fey book. The appropriate emblem was cut out on the forage of the ship that was ornate with fretwork. For example, among the Azov fleet there was a ship called «The Turtle» — «With patience you will see termination to all affairs» (according to the edition of 1705, the emblem №161), also there was a ship called «The Three wine-glasses» — «Keep within limits in all affairs» (№438). On the forage of the ships there were accordingly cut out the turtle and the table with three wine-glasses. Transformations of Peter the Great had been prepared by the whole process of Russian state life of XVI—XVII centuries. On the general background of the historical process the first quarter of the XVIII-th century is characterized by high rates of all-around development. Striving for putting Russia forward to the appropriate place among European states Peter the Great understood impossibility of preserving the old way of life unchangeable. It was required to update the country in at least some areas namely in economy, army, education. One of the possible means was Europeanization of the country within the limits Peter the Great found to be necessary, and the press was one of the constituent parts of the Europeanization. The publishing released from trusteeship of church and supervision of the patriarch was forced by Peter the Great to serve the state. There came a new stage in the history of Russian publishing. In the course of reforms carried out by him Peter the Great early realized the significance of press. And, undoubtedly, his travel to Europe in 1697-1698 played a greate part in understanding this significance. During his stay in Amsterdam Peter the Great found out the influence press had in public life. At that time Holland took the first place in book business in Europe publishing books and newspapers not only for that country. Foreign printing houses used to order letters to well-known Dutch engravers. In Amsterdam Peter the Great also got acquainted with political engraving that used to respond to all great European events; he visited Adrian Shkhonebek in whose workshop there were issued tens sheets of «chronicle» engraving. Understanding that reform of book business in Russia couldn’t be effected quickly and at the same time not considering it was possible to waste time, Peter the Great made the attempt to publish Russian books in Amsterdam. In 1698 Dutch merchant Ian Tesing was granted the privilege for fifteen years: “... He was commanded in that city of Amsterdam to print European, Asian and American terrestrial and sea maps and drawings, and various quires and persons, and about terrestrial and sea military people mathematical, architectural and town-planning and other art books in Slavic and Dutch languages together, and also in Slavic and Dutch languages separately... except for church Slavic records of Greek language... “ In the privilege there is reflected a part of the program of publishing conceived by Peter the Great which was later implemented in Russia on much expanded subjects. Ian Tesing did not know Russian and according to his contemporaries, did not possess the necessary knowledge to fulfill the obligations undertaken, and, moreover, he was not an expert in the technique of printing. He had to organize a printing house and cast the fonts. The font of the Tesing printing house was different from the usual Moscow one as it is fine, some letters preserved the old Cyrillic form, some of them by their outlines are similar to the future civil font. By their format the books are portable, in one octant or quarter of a sheet. Probably, the format is also explained by the small volume of the books. It is Elia Fedorovich Kopievsky (sometimes he was called Kopievich) who rendered assistance to Tesing. There is no reliable information about Kopievsky’s origin, possibly, he was Byelorussian from Lithuania, and knew Russian, though not perfectly. He was the composer or translator of all books to have left Tesing printing house. However their teamwork proceeded not for long, and in 1700 they parted. After Kopievsky’s leaving in Tesing printing house there was only printed one book namely the Calendar (1702) that was published already after the owner’s death that happended in 1701. After his quarrel with Tesing, Kopievsky cast a new font that was different in inscription of some letters. Lack of means forced him to join Ian de Iong, but their business also came to severance and litigation. In 1702 Kopievsky was in Berlin unsuccessfully trying to conclude a contract of printing Russian books with the Berlin academy of sciences. In 1707 he moved to Russia. However there has not been preserved any traces of his active participation in publishing the first books of civil font. He died in 1714. Not all the books published in Amsterdam reached our time. Kopievsky printed three lists of the books published and prepared for printing by him. The first list was enclosed in 1699 to his application addressed to Peter the Great even during his work for Tesing: «The rank grade the books are called... are made by the author thereof Elia Fedorov Kopievsky... «. In the list there were listed 23 books. This list is the first bibliography of Russian books, and at the same time the first Russian personal bibliography. The second was enclosed to the Latin grammar printed by Kopievsky in 1700 after his severance with Tesing and the third one to his «Manual in Grammar» published by him in suburb of Danzig — Shtoltsenberg — where there are already specified 25 books and from among them twelve books were sent to the Moscow empire. Three books mentioned by Kopievsky as printed ones have not reached us; probably, they have not been published. In the lists there are mainly listed books of humanitarian contents. The books on exact sciences were not satisfactory enough. For example, in «Brief and useful Manual in arithmetic» consisting of 48 pages a half was devoted to "Maxims" and "Parables". Only two editions were worthy on notice from the list namely:

1. Translation of the composition of the well-known Dutch mathematician de Graaf «The Book teaching sea navigation... «published by Kopievsky after his severance with Tesing.

2. The later Amsterdam edition printed according to the decree of Peter the Great in 1705 in the printing house of Henry Vetstejn that was called «Symbols and emblemats» and acquired wide distribution in Russia.

As it was mentioned above, the emblems were borrowed for representation thereof on triumphal arches and transparencies during fireworks, used when composing arms, incrusting furniture, served as patterns for bone carvers and were the reference book for the first Russian engravers. The attempt of publishing books far from Russia in language that was unfamiliar for publishers could not be crowned with success. Perhaps, Peter the Great was satisfied with neither contents nor subjects of the books. The Amsterdam editions were of very limited distribution in Russia and now they are extremely rare, as Grigory Gennadi marks in the foreword to his fundamental research «Russian book rarities’, SPB, 1872. The extracts from this article were subsequently repeated by P.A.Kartavov in his research called «Bibliographic information about rare books», № 1, SPB., 1898. It is two books by the Frenchman Daniel de la the Fey published in Amsterdam in 1691 and 1696 that served as the initial material for «Symbols and emblemats». From among them there were selected840 figures-emblems to have been placed by the composers on the right odd pages of the book (with 6 engravings on each page); on the left pages there were placed "symbols", i.e. explanations to the emblems. Each "symbol" was duplicated in eight languages: Russian, Latin, French, Italian, Spanish, Dutch, English and German. And it is possible to say about the Russian mottos, that they are not so much as translations, rather than semantic analogues of the initial inscriptions. There was made the assumption that it is Kopievsky being famous for his propensity to literary work who is the author thereof. The Russian title of the book is engraved on the frontispiece of the work by John Moulder. It is here where the portrait of Peter I is placed made from the original by Gottfried Kneller and around it there are placed 8 emblems with signatures. The well-known Russian doctor, «the founder of domestic obstetrics» Nestor Maximovich Maximovich-Ambodik (1744-1812) who twice republished «Symbols and emblemats» in 1788 and 1811 although with some discrepancies, but as a whole he truly described and interpreted them in his comment: «In the title of this book there is represented Peter the Great’s portrait with surrounding it decent Emblems and symbols which are presented here with the description thereof one after another: I. The radiant sun. — It is always and everywhere the same. II. The rising sun and other heavenly bodies — all others would yield thereto. III. The shining sun and the eagle with its young nestling hovering upwards — the hope of your empire is great. IV. The double-headed crowned eagle with the scepter and orb in whose breast there is the Saint George defeating the prostrated snake. — The leader and defender from enemies. V. The mountain everywhere surrounded by the sea, and winds blowing thereto. It is by no means motionless. VI. The lion killing the dog. — Who will relieve it? VII. A hand coming out of the clouds dressed in armor and holding a sword with an oil-palm branch. — Ready to war and peace. VIII. Hercules carrying light on his shoulders. The load that is equal to the strength. — In the middle, under the image of Peter the Great there is the following symbolical inscription: «All the beauty and protection coming from him». In opinion of historians, the most emblems and captions thereto were intended to demonstrate confidence of the Russians in their forthcoming victory over Sweden, but one of the subjects indicated Peter's readiness to make peace with the enemy. The circulation of the book made not less than 800 copies. «Symbols and emblemats» is the only on from among Russian editions that were printed in Amsterdam about which it is known that it was on sale in Moscow. «Symbols and emblemats» were brought to Moscow in boxes which « were put in the Ambassadorial Board at boyar Feodor Alekseevich Golovin» — hence, not later than on July 1706 when Golovin died. Apparently, the book was then simply forgotten, and it was only recollected 12 years later. In 1718 there was given the order signed by G.I.Golovkin and P.P.Shafirov «... On the 21-th of March under the decree of the great sovereign... Peter Alekseevich... there aforementioned books Emblemats which are safe are to be given to the book row of stalls to merchants people in the presence of the senior man under signature and tell them to sell those books to everybody to wish to acquire thereof, and to determine the price for each book to be of twenty and three three-copeck pieces but two denga... and to expose a written announcement thereof in the book row of stalls». Some merchants refused to accept a great number of books to sell them in their stores; they only took insignificant number of copies of «Symbols and emblemats» and it is clerks who traded in them. On December 6t, 1721 Vasily Kitsrijanoz took 105 books for sale. The money for the sold books were given to the Ambassadorial Board. The circulation of the book was considerable for the time: not less than 800 copies were brought to Moscow. «In the Royal Ambassadorial Board there are 590 books of printed emblemats, but from among them 165 decayed because of dampness» – it is the number of copies that was determined 12 years after delivery of the books to Moscow; of course, originally there were more thereof. Sale of the books in Moscow was the reason for «Symbols and emblemats» reaching us in relatively larger number of copies. «Symbols and emblemats» have sustained some republications — in 1719, 1788, 1811 and 1995. Naturally, today it is the copies of the first edition of 1705 that are the rarest ones.


1. N.V. Solovyov’s antique-shop. Catalogue №105 «Livres Rares», Saint-Petersburg, 1910, №456, 125 roubles!

2. N.B. «Russian rare books», Moscow, 1902, №551.

3. Mezdounarodnaya Kniga. Section des livres Illust.. Bulletin №8. Moscow, 1926, №5, 40 roubles.

4. Pecarskii, vols. 1- 2, SPB, 1862, №96.

5. Petrov A. V., № 6.

6. Smirnov-Sokol’skii, Biblioteka, vol. I, №9.

7. Book treasures of the State Lenin Library. A department of rare books. Pt. 1, Moscow, 1979, №52.

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