Astrology and predictions in Russia


[The Book, Called Bruce's Calendar]

Kniga, imenuemaia Brusovskoi kalendar.

Publication: [V. Kipriianov, Moskva, 1810].

[BRUCE’S CALENDAR], [The Book, Called Bruce’s Calendar]

Complete example of an early, fully engraved edition of this famous, richly illustrated civil calendar, with predictions to the 20th century. A fine example with provenance charmingly handwritten. “A great rarity” writes Bitovt.

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Our Notes & References

Complete example of an early, fully engraved edition of this famous, richly illustrated civil calendar, showing ornaments, numerous allegorical scenes, arms of the Russian empire and its regions, a map of the Moscow region with an inset plan of the city, a panoramic view of St. Petersburg under the portraits of three Romanovs and above a map of the region, all rather naively and charmingly engraved.

The calendar was originally edited and published during the reign of Peter the Great by Count Jacob Bruce (1669-1735), a Russian statesman, military leader and scientist of Scottish descent. Beside astronomic information, this civil calendar included an astrological forecast for 1710 through 1821, which stirred up strong public interest and prompted numerous imitations.

The popularity of the calendar led to several editions and numerous reissues during the 18th century, mostly undated and very similar in many respects. As a result, bibliographies and commercial catalogues have been rather confused to this day, a notable exception being the research by Sokrat Klepikov, a 20th-c. senior bibliographer of the Russian State Library.

Simultaneously with the ‘large Bruce’s calendar’ published in 1709-15 on six broadsheets (a great rarity with only three complete examples known in Russian libraries), a ‘small’ version was being prepared in a quarto format. However, for unclear reasons the publication encountered delays and presumably was completed only 30 years later, in the 1740s, or at least after 1742. The edition was engraved from 47 plates that were used for seven further issues. In the 1780s new plates were engraved with larger font, which brought the number of leaves in the edition up to 49.

Our third “edition” was prepared in the 1810s, with more than half the plates being re-engraved specially, including a new title page. Editors also added a new chapter titled ‘Ведомость, коликое число во время крестных ходов… святых икон допускается’ [Regulation on how many holy icons are allowed in church processions], which further expanded the edition to 51 leaves.

“A great rarity” (Bitovt). The book being very popular and heavily used, complete and satisfying copies of all the editions described above are now rare, including in Russia. We could not trace any copy of this edition at auction outside Russia in recent decades, and only a handful of copies of previous editions, mostly defective.

With near contemporary price and provenance unusually and charmingly written in the lower margin of the first few leaves: “Iokim Vasilev Spiridonov, bought in 1838, 200 rubles given for it” (‘Иокима Васильева Спиридонова, куплен в 1838 году Дано за оный двести рублей’). It is worth noticing that this was a very significant amount at the time in Russia, and for a book especially (apparently equivalent to about $100 or £20 in the 1830s).


Klepikov, ‘Russkie gravirovanniye knigi XVII-XVIII vv. (Issledovaniya i materialy, 1964, sbornik 9), p. 161-3; Bitovt 2777 (‘bolshaia redkost’, describing the same structure as our edition but dating it rather vaguely ‘second half of the 18th century, there were a few editions’); Ostroglazov 145 (this edition, same collation, mentioning two specific leaves which are included here too, and underlining differences with copies described by Snegirev and Rovinskii); Guberti, vol. III, 54 (1740s edition); for other editions and further bibliographical references, cf. Sopikov 4984; Gennadi, Slovar I,110-111 and II, 93; N.B. (Berezin) 126; Rovinskii, Russkie narodnye kartinki, I,361-433.

Item number



Physical Description

Small oblong folio (20.8 x 32 cm). Engr. title and 50 engraved leaves, including 9 folding; two leaves with watermarks ‘МФОМ’.


Contemporary calf spine over modern marbled boards, kept in modern slipcase.


A bit spotted and soiled, occasional small tears, several leaves with restorations, mostly marginal, some with small loss of text; binding a bit tight for some folding plates, recased, spine a bit rubbed over previous restoration, corners renewed.

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