Incredibly rare illustrated Russian translation of the famous French version of the Bible, which interpreted the text so as to make it more accessible for the masses. This edition is absent from library holdings outside Russia and standard bibliographies.
Crisp copy with Imperial provenance.
This Russian translation was completed by Vasilii Krylov and based on the ‘latest revised edition’ of L’Histoire du Vieux et du Nouveau Testament, représentée avec des figures et des explications édifiantes […] written by De Royaumont (Nicolas Fontaine, 1625 – 1709), a Jansenite of the Port-Royal movement, which strove to purify Catholicism. He completed this work while in captivity at the Bastille (1666-68), supposedly with much help from the French theologian, Port-Royal priest and humanist Lemaistre de Sacy (1613-84), who was his companion in prison.
Works that offered interpretations of the Old and New Testament grew increasingly popular in the Russian Empire between the 1780s and 1830s, with most of the publications being translated from original Greek or French works. The New Testament was first published in modern Russian in 1822, and until then the Bible was only available in Old Church Slavonic. The vast majority of the population could not read OCS, and their understanding of the Bible was therefore entirely dependent on the priest who interpreted it for them. The clergy strove to retain control over interpretations of the Bible such as this one, which resulted in many texts being censored and banned.
The offered edition of the History of the Old and New Testament is exceptionally rare. It is absent from the holdings of the Russian State Library and does not appear in WorldCat or Copac. The sole copy at the Russian National Library is defective, lacking a title.
This edition is also absent from standard bibliographies, which instead include Dmitrii Maksheev’s better known Russian translation of the same French work. This was published in 1828 with a slightly shortened title and 172 plates, and names the original French author as de Sacy, unlike in the Krylov version. Maksheev’s translation is an independent work in which most parts of the text differ from the 1820 edition. Some differences are purely stylistic, while others are ideological; for instance, the chapter entitled ‘The Fall of Adam and Eve’ in the 1820 edition becomes ‘The Fall of Adam’ in the later version. Though Maksheev does not mention the existence of an earlier Russian translation in his introduction, it is worth noting that some passages in his version are identical to the Krylov translation, with only occasional changes in word order. It seems very likely that Maksheev owned a copy of the 1820 edition and relied on it heavily.
The rarity of our edition can perhaps be explained by flaws in the censorship procedure. In 1820 it was a legal requirement that all spiritual literature go through Church Censorship (Духовная Цензура), which would make sure that the work did not breach existing dogma. While the Maksheev translation underwent this standard procedure, the censorship approval for the 1820 edition bears only the name Ivan Timkovskii. Timovskii was a Saint Petersburg censor and not authorised to review spiritual literature; it is therefore quite possible that the publication of this edition was a mistake, later uncovered and resulting in the already printed edition being banned.
This copy comes from the library of Grand Duke Nicholas Nikolaevich of Russia (1831–91), the third son of Tsar Nicholas I of Russia and Alexandra Feodorovna. After training as a soldier he commanded the Russian army of the Danube in the Russo-Turkish War, 1877–8.
Three parts in 1 vol. 8vo (20.2 x 12.8 cm). Frontispiece, title, pp. , vi, , 198, with 53 engraved plates; title, pp. 234, with 18 plates; title, pp. , 221, with 39 plates; small hole with loss of a few letters to pp. 53-54, part 1; small light waterstain to several ll. in part 3. Contemporary full calf, blind tooling to spine, red morocco label to spine with lettering in blind.
Provenance: Grand Duke Nikolai Nikolaevich (1831-1891; bookplate), contemporary inscription to upper fly leaf “Книга сия Иеромонаха Тарасия” [This book belongs to priest Tarasii].
SK 1801-1825, No 4490; Smirdin 808 (priced at 18 rub); not in Obolyaninov, Sopikov, Ulianinskiy.
Stock ID: 93202