European cross-cultural publication


Smert Marii Stuart, korolevy Shotlandskoi..

[The Death of Mary Stuart, Queen of Scots […]: historical description illustrated with seven prints engraved after English originals […]]

Publication: Beketov and Reshetnikov, Moskva, 1803.

FILIPOVSKII, Efrem, Smert Marii Stuart, korolevy Shotlandskoi..

Complete copy of this bibliographical rarity, a charming book with skilfully engraved plates, and a great witness of cultural exchanges in Europe and Russia in the early 19th century. No copy traced in libraries outside Russia.

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Our Notes & References

An early and extremely rare production of the team Beketov-Filipovskii-Osipov, which gave some of the best and most celebrated Russian illustrated books of the turn of the century, before Beketov’s press and collection burned down during the 1812 fire of Moscow.

The major Russian bibliographies mentioning its scarcity seem to be backed by Worldcat, where we could not trace any copy. We found one example in the Moscow State Library, and are aware of another one in a private collection. Not in Gubar’s nor Smirnov-Sokolskii’s collections, which included other publications by Beketov and Filipovskii.

The seven prints here were copied by the Russian engraver Osipov from “L’Exécution de Marie Stuart, reine d’Ecosse, en sept estampes”, originally engraved by the Irish engraver and bookseller William Nelson Gardiner (1766–1814). The series was commissioned in 1789 by the 4th Earl of Abingdon from the London-based painter of French descent John Francis Rigaud (1742–1810) to complement a musical piece he had written on Mary’s final hours and death. It is much more common that this Russian interpretation, which is also remarkable for its quality compared to the other and rather few Russian illustrated books of the time.

Although the title page of the text indicates a “translation from English originals”, Fillipovkii adds in the introduction: “By chance I came across a series of English prints accompanied by text in four languages telling the story of Mary Stuart. As the text contained multiple inaccuracies, I therefore, corrected and shortened it as much as I could after having consulted reliable historical sources.” (our translation) However the title of the text title does indic

He goes on detailing his choice to dedicate the edition to Daria Derzhavina (1767-1842), the second wife of Gavriil Derzhavin (1743-1816), one of the most loved Russian poets of the pre-Pushkin era. From the introduction we understand that Fillipovskii was close to Derzhavina’s late father, as well as her husband, and that this publication was a way to show his gratitude to the family which helped him on multiple occasions in the past.

The execution of Mary Stuart, a great-granddaughter of Henry VII, on 8 February 1587 by the order of Queen Elizabeth I of England, shocked Europe and gave rise to a legend around the image of the Queen of Scots. Since then her tragic story has been a subject of inspiration for writers, artists, and composers. Interestingly, Schiller’s own famous play, ‘Maria Stuart’, devoted to the final hours of the Queen, was played first in 1800 before being printed in 1801: it is entirely possibly that it influenced Filipovskii in his enterprise.

In parallel it is worth nothing that the Imperial Public Library in St. Petersburg began acquiring historical manuscripts and documents linked with Mary, in particular from Petr Dubrovskii (1754-1816), who came back from 20 years in France and the Netherlands with a large collection including Mary Stuart’s own book of hours.

The volume ends with a life of Mary Stuart, in Russian, and a 2-pp. poem of “Thoughts of Oxenstierna”, interpreting the then very famous aphorisms of the Swedish count, and most probably due to Petr Karabonov (first published in his ‘Poetry’ in 1801).


Sopikov 10923 (“Very rare edition”); Vereshchagin 795 (“Rare edition”); Obolianinov 2499 (has seen only six plates out of seven); Rovinskii, p. 749, № 202-208; Solovev Cat. 105, 507 (priced 15 rub); Natalia Elagina, The National Library of Russia, “Manuscripts and documents on Mary, Queen of Scots, in the collection of the National Library of Russia” (In Studies in Variation, Contacts and Change in English, Volume 9, University of Helsinki, 2012).

For Beketov’s major importance in the development of Russian printing and illustration, see Smirnov-Sok., Moia bibl., I-227.

Not in Smirnov-Sok. or Gubar.

Item number



Physical Description

Small landscape folio. General title, title of text with woodcut vignette, dedication leaf, [2] ll. dedication text, 7 plates engraved by Osipov, each with a leaf of explanatory text in French, German and Russian, and 9 pp.


Near contemporary boards with recent calf spine.


Boards soiled and rubbed; occasional soiling to pages, still a very good example of this rarity.

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