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Sofia University Library “St. Kliment Ohridski” Opened the Enriched Digital Zographos Research Library

On the day of the feast of the holy brothers S.S. Cyril and Methodius the Philological Library opened the enriched with 164 Slavonic manuscripts digital research library “Zographos”. 120 new, uncatalogued Slavonic MSs were presented by the Zographos Monasery of St.George Library, and the National Museum of History presented its own collection of 44 Slavonic MSs.

The digital Zographos research library possesses a rich collection that makes it possible for research workers to work with many and different manuscripts, such as Codex Assemanius, the Manassius chronicle, the Reims Gospel, etc., at the same place. The library contains more than 614 digital copies of Slavonic manuscripts kept in prestigious collections in this country and abroad. The realization of the initiative became possible thanks to the research activities of faculty at the Department of Cyril and Methodius Studies and the cooperation of the University Library “St. Kliment Ohridski” with colleagues from various cultural and scientific institutes in this country and abroad.


Associate Professor Anna Angelova, the Sofia University Library Director, welcomed the guests of the Philological Library and recalled the fact that the establishment of the Digital Zographos Research Library three years ago went hand in hand with an ongoing growth of the collections of manuscripts.

The foundations were laid in June, 2014, with the Zographos E-library containing e-copies of 286 Slavonic manuscripts from the library of the Zographos Monastery amongst which, under № 43, is the best known MS of Paissius of Chilandar’s “Slav-Bulgarian History” from 1762 (the Zographos draft). Till May, 2015, the digital copies of the MS collections of the Apostolic Library at the Vatican, the City Library of Reims (France), the Dragomirna Monastery (Romania), Academician I. Duichev’s Centre of Slavonic and Byzantine Studies, the Plovdiv Ivan Vazov National Library, the Kyustendil Academician Yordan Ivanov Museum of History, and the University Library Theological Branch were added.


Professor Angelova remarked that “with the new manuscripts which were received this year from the Zographos collection and the collection of the National Museum of History, now there is a corpus of more than 600 manuscripts which can be accessed in a digital format. I consider this a challenge to the research workers and the scientific community both in this country and abroad and this will facilitate the work in this domain in the future, thus opening the still unknown pages of our written, centuries-old cultural tradition.”

The scope of the collection is impressively wide: it presents manuscripts from the Xth to the beginning of the XIX c. It traces the road of development of the manuscript in this country for a very long period of time.


Professor Margaret Dimitrova from the Department of Cyril and Methodius Studies at the Faculty of Slavic Studies at Sofia University presented the recently catalogued manuscripts which had come from the Zographos Monastery:

“This wealth of digital copies of manuscripts forms an excellent basis for the leading position this University should take amongst the educational establishments. It is also a promising starting point for it to be not only a centre of education but also a research hub. It is only when using such sources as primary evidence that we can go to the stage of creating more comprehensive and large scale research work, and also going deeper into the details“.


Professor Dimitrova expressed her gratitude to the monastery sodality of the Zographos Monastery and her colleagues from the Departmet of Cyril and Methodius Studies who started working on the collection some years ago.

405 manuscripts all in all have been digitalized and presented to the Sofia University Library by the Zographos Monastery. The new collection includes 116 of them. The majority of them are late manuscripts from the XVIIth, XVIIIth and XIXth c. They shed light on the literary tastes of the time, on the changes taking place in the spiritual mentality and the religious cannon, the links between the Monastery and other cultural centres of letters.


The collection includes copies from the vitae of St. Ivan of Rila, St. Onufrius of Gabrovo, St. Kosma of Zographos. There are also copies of services, prayer books, etc. Some of them were stitched to old printed books and the resulting symbiosis of a later period of the printed and written word is of special interest.

Professor Dimitrova stressed that the new collection includes also two early manuscripts, two sheets from a fragment of a typikon written in the Eastern Bulgarian tradition and a sheet of the floral triod from the XIVth c. in Middle Bulgarian writing. Thus far these manuscripts have not been known to science and their description is forthcoming. The monastery collection contains not only Slavonic manuscripts and old printed books but also Greek and Ottoman documents.


Father Kozma of the Zographos Monastery congratulated the guests on the feast of the holy brothers. “Our monastery has most probably preserved the bigger part of the spiritual history of our nation and the sodality has come up with the idea that it must be shared with the people at large, with those who want to work in that domain“, he added and also pointed out that there are grey areas which have to be filled in, and this can be done only with joint efforts.

Professor Klimentina Ivanova, a prominent scholar of Old Bulgarian from the Faculty of Slavic Studies at Sofia University, noted that the established connection between the Monastery, a guardian of spiritual traditions, and the scientific community was a real miracle. She described the activities of the Zographos Chamber as a replica in miniature of the activities of Cyril and Methodius.


Professor Ivanova retold the story of the initial occurrence of the idea to set up the Zographos Chamber, the work of the team, and came up with a fresh view on the system of describing the manuscripts.


Associate Professor Nina Voutova from the National Museum of History said that we had our own Zographos Chamber and that that was a unique cultural phenomenon. She was particularly pleased that the Slavonic manuscript collection of the Museum, although small as such, had become part of the Zographos Chamber. She thanked Professor Angelova for her efforts to have the museum manuscripts digitalized and pointed out that the collection was the first digitalized collection as such in the Museum.


Associate Professor Vasya Velinova, Director of the Academician I. Duichev Centre for Slavonic and Byzantine Studies at Sofia University, presented the manuscript collection of the museum: “I had the opportunity to work with excellent specimens of Bulgarian manuscripts. The collection is small in size but as content it is truly unique.“ She also mentioned that the collection had a wide chronological scope: from the XIIIth to the latter half of the XIXth c.


The oldest MS is the Boyana Psalter, a parchment codex of the XIIIth c. Perhaps it best illustrates the dramatic life of a manuscript: it was immured in the walls of the Boyana Church and found when its restoration got under way. It was brought back to life due to the efforts of the restoration experts at the museum.

In Professor Velinova’s words there are some more manuscripts of the XIVth c. which are pivotal in the collection: a parchment panegyric containing works of St. Kliment Ohridski, of St. Yoan Exarch, a very archaic layer of works of Old Bulgarian writers. Although it is a XIVth c. Serbian copy, it shows that that it was copied from an ancient Old Bulgarian manuscript. Professor Velinova expressed her conviction that the manuscript would doubtlessly attract the attention of researchers for years to come.


The collection presented by the National Museum of History includes also a historic palaios of the XIV c., a sizeable group of Revival manuscripts, autographs of Sofroniy of Vratsa, of his teacher Father Milko Kotlenski, two copies of Paissius’ “History”, and also several copies of the well-known copyist Father Todor Pirdopski.


“Sofia University can take pride in being in possession of the so-called “live manuscripts” in the Zographos Chamber and a unique collection at the Academician I. Duichev Centre” Professor Velinova said and appealed to all to help them in their work, thus consolidating our own national identity.