Our Notes & References
Sacarce 17th-c. study of Russian religious traditions, with lovely engravings by Picart. It describes the Christianisation of the Kievan Rus, the dogmas of the Russian Orthodox Church and its religious customs and ceremonies, such as marriage, baptism and funerals. It also discusses the Western Russians’ veneration of saints and the Holy Trinity as a foundational principle of the Russian Christian Church, those who are considered as heretics or enemies of the Church, and the difference between the Russian and Greek Orthodoxy.
The work is based on a journey made to Russia in 1684-86 by the young German historian Georg Adam Schleissing (b. 1660, sometimes Schleusing), completed by his reading of a short work, the 31 page-long Religio Moscovitarum by Michael von Oppenbusch, published in 1660. First published in German in 1694 (with a title stating Die auffgehende Sonne der christlichen Religion), it became popular and went through various editions and translations in the following years. The first French translation came out in 1698, shortly after the Great Embassy of Peter the Great in 1697-98, at a time of an increased European interest in the rapidly changing Russian Empire. This is the second French edition.
The lovely volume contains seven engravings by Picart, including a frontispiece depicting St Helena (Olga of Kiev) and her grandson, king Vladimir (Wolodimirus) who baptised Kievan Rus. The other six plates represent the ancient idols of Muscovites, blessing of people by a patriarch, Russian religious rituals, such as baptism, consecration of water and burial, and a curious scene with an English ambassador’s monkey chased by streltsy (riflemen). Some of the religious scenes are based on engravings from Adam Olearius’ Vermehrte Newe Beschreibung Der Muscowitischen und Persischen Reyse (1656) and Jacob Sandrart’s Kurtze beschreibung von Moscovien oder Reußland aus Frantzösischen (1688).
A rare edition, apparently rarer than the first French: we could find only two examples at auction in recent decades (one possibly incomplete), and could locate only five physical copies in libraries, none in Russia (NYPL, Columbia, LOC, Bibliothèque et Archives nationales du Québec, BnF).
From the estate of Geoffrey Elliott (1939-2021), banker of Russian descent, author of books on 20th-c. history. Geoffrey and his wife Fay were noted collectors, especially of Oscar Wilde, Evelyn Waugh and other literary figures. Russia was also an important theme: Geoffrey’s grandparents were interned in a Siberian tsarist prison camp before the October Revolution, and he focused most of his published works on the Cold War.
The Elliotts donated a significant part of their collection to the library of Leeds University in 2002, but kept the Russia-related items, which we consequently acquired.
Not in the Russica catalogue (cf. for other editions II, W-58 to 68); cf. Ulianinskii 3963 for the 1698 first French; L. P. Lapteva, “Rasskaz ochevidtsa o zhizni Moskovii kontsa XVII veka” // Voprosy istorii, № 1. 1970; Osipov I. A. Risunki v sochineniiakh inostrannykh pisatelei o Moskovii 17 veka: zaimstvovaniia, interpretatsii, fantazii. Syktyvkar, 2014.