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Presentation of the Enriched Zograph Digital Research Library

The enriched Zograph Digital Research Library was officially opened at the Philological Library at the Rectorate building of Sofia University. The collection contains more than 450 digital copies of Slavonic manuscripts owned by prestigious collections in this country and abroad.

The foundations of the initiative was laid by the research work of the faculty at the Department of Cyril and Methodius Studies at the Faculty of Slavic Philology and with the cooperation of the University Library with many other Bulgarian cultural institutions.

Formally, the digital research library got started in 2014 with the Zograph E-research Library, containing digital copies of 286 Slavonic manuscripts (MSs) from the library of the Zograph Monastery of St. George. Subsequently, the digital copies of the MS collections of the Apostolic Library at the Vatican, the Reims City Library (France), the Academician Ivan Duychev Centre for Slavonic and Byzantine Research, the Ivan Vazov Library (Plovdiv), the Academician Yordan Ivanov History Museum (Kyustendil) and the Theological Library were added.

The event is part of the programme of the traditional May Days of Culture held at Sofia University. It was opened by the Director of the St. Kliment Ohridski University Library, Associate Professor Dr. Anna Rangelova, who welcomed the guests at the Philological Library and expressed her great satisfaction that the occasion of the enrichment of the Zograph Digital Research Library was taking place on the eve of the most glorious Bulgarian holiday, May 24th, and coincides with the 1 200 anniversary of the birth of St. Methodius, one of the isoapostles of the Slavs.

“Bulgarian manuscripts have a very difficult and unfortunate fate. They transcend the cultural space and boundaries of Slavia orthodoxa, spread all round the world and nowadays can be found in the collections of the most prestigious libraries, academic institutions and private collections. This is what recently has made the efforts of research workers and librarians unite in the setting up of a digital collection that will provide easy access to our cultural and historical heritage.”

Associate Professor Angelova pointed out that it had been only the year before that in the very same hall, due to the agreement signed by Sofia University and the Zograph Monastery, the beginning of the Zograph E-research Library had been launched; the latter was providing access to research workers and students to 286 Slavonic manuscripts from the Zograph monastery library. “Today, they will be joined by manuscripts from seven new collections and, thus, our digital library is acquiring new dimensions by offering more than 450 manuscripts. Now, to the Zograph collection is added the collection of Slavonic manuscripts of the Vatican Apostolic Library, the collection of the Dragomirna Monastery, the manuscript collection of the Plovdiv Library, manuscripts from the History Museum in Kyustendil, and with the help of Parliament we managed to obtain a digital copy of the Reims Gospel,” the Director of the University Library added.

Associate Professor Angelova also mentioned that the foundations of the enrichment of the library were laid by the research efforts of the team from the Department of Cyril and Methodius Studies, the librarians from the University Library, research workers from the Institute of Literature at the Bulgarian Academy of Sciences and faculty from the South-West University “Neofit Rilski”.

The digital library already owns a relatively rich collection which provides research workers with the opportunity to work with many and different MSs in the same place. It also includes the collections of Sofia University: the collections of MSs of the Academician Ivan Duychev Centre for Slavonic and Byzantine Studies and also the MSs in both the original and digital format of the personal collection of the late Cyril, Patriarch of Bulgaria, which are kept at the Theological Library of the Faculty of Theology at Sofia University.

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Professor Dr. Ivan Ilchev, Rector of Sofia University, congratulated his colleagues from the University Library and those from other academic institutions on the efforts they had put in that joint project. He said he was truly delighted by the enrichment of the digital collection of the University Library whose basis was initially laid by the agreement signed with the Zograph Monastery, an event unique in this country, and with the kind support of the research workers who worked with the MSs at the monastery. The Rector was sad to note that the recent achievements of the university libraries at Sofia University were due only to the selfless and voluntary efforts of the people who work in the latter. The University Library is allegedly the biggest library in Bulgaria that claims no state subsidy.

Professor Dr. Anna-Maria Totomanova, Head of the Department of Cyril and Methodius Studies, pointed out that the spirit of the Department of Cyril and Methodius Studies is interwoven in the digital collection. The Department, thanks to a series of scientific, doctoral and other intra-university projects, has managed to procure the modern technology necessary for the digitalization of medieval sources, train the faculty how to use the technology and digitalise several very important collections which are already accessible.

She drew the attention of the audience that the MSs from the Vatican related to the history of Bulgaria, were digitalized in the Vatican library itself on the basis of a joint agreement between Sofia University and the Apostolic Library. Professor Totomanova expressed her happiness that the Department of Cyril and Methodius Studies was the pioneer in that respect at the University and is also still unique in this country and in the world. She pointed to the 35th anniversary of the Department that had been recently celebrated and added that the enrichment of the digital library is yet another present to mark the occasion.

In her words, the most valuable of the MSs from the Vatican Apostolic Library are the Manasius Chronicle, the Asemaniev Gospel and the Vatican palimpcest, the last being the oldest Bulgarian MS.

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The representative of the Zograph Monastery, Father Kouzma, conveyed the best regards of the confraternity of the Zograph Monastery and expressed their gratitude to the Academic Council of Sofia University and the directors of the University Library for the organization of the event. He recollected that in 2009 the initiative of making copies of some of the historically important Zograph MSs in view of their storage and future preservation got off the ground. In the process of work a decision was reached that more people should be given the opportunity to access those documents and their digital copies should also be deposited in Bulgaria. Assistant Professor Dimitur Peev and Assistant Professor Petko Petkov from the Department of Cyril and Methodius Studies led and supervised the process and were later joined by Associate Professor Andrey Boyadzhiev. Thus, with their efforts the bigger part of the monastery archives were digitalized and prepared for use.

The result of the initiative was the first legally functioning collection of Zograph records outside Mount Athos. The Zograph digital archives have found their home at the University Library of Sofia University. Father Kouzma noted that presently another 200 newly-found Zograph MSs are prepared and, as of the beginning of the next academic year, they will become part of the digital library. He added that negotiations are currently being held with other monasteries on Mount Athos for the digitalization of the Slavonic MSs in their collections.

In conclusion, Father Kouzma expressed his genuine gratitude to Associate Professor Anna Angelova and Professor Ivan Ilchev for their cooperation and the organization of bringing all the archival records in one place.

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Associate Professor Todorova from Plovdiv University “Paisiy Hilendarski” presented a brief report of the MS collection at the Ivan Vazov Library in Plovdiv. The catalogue descriptions are ready and so are the digital copies of 58 MS fragments of paper and parchment from the XII – XVII c. period. From among the XIIth c. masterpieces two are of world renown: the Slepchenski Apostle from the second half of the XIIth c. and the Kyustendil palimpcest from the end of the XIIth c. In this collection the MSs from the XIIIth c. are nine, 13 are from the XIVth c., 13 are from the XVth c., 14 fragments are from the XVIth c. and 7 from the XVIIth c.

Associate Professor Vasya Velinova, Director of the Academician Ivan Duychev Centre for Slavonic and Byzantine Studies, summarized the activities of the Centre related to the restoration of the MSs from the personal library of the late Patriarch Cyril.

Associate Professor Velinova stressed that the Centre follows the legacy of Academician Professor Ivan Duychev not only to popularize the cultural heritage but also to store and preserve it for the future generations. She presented Associate Professor Omarchevsky, Dean of the Faculty of Theology at Sofia University, with the restored MSs from the personal archives of Patriarch Cyril that are of special value to science. “This is a Menaion and an Octoechos from the XVth and XVIth c., respectively, a miscellanea with apocrypha and several fragments, including an Ottoman document. All these were cleaned and restored in the laboratory at the Centre. Today, it is my great pleasure to present symbolically these two files to the Dean of the Faculty of Theology and, in this way, I would like to assert the capacity of the Centre to work successfully on a large-scale project: the laboratory can be turned into a university laboratory also with the support of the University Library. I also voice the hope of my colleagues that on May,24th next year we shall gather again to celebrate another good event,” Associate Professor Velinova added.

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Associate Professor Dr. Alexander Omarchevsky, Dean of the Faculty of Theology, was deeply moved and thanked the representatives of the Academician Ivan Duychev Centre for Slavonic and Byzantine Studies for the work done on the restoration of their collection. He added that he felt the MSs very close to his heart and precious at the same time and that was why he was so glad to see them restored, revived and vibrant with new life.

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Ms K. Baychinska, wife of the late NABIS Foundation Director Associate Professor Dr. Dincho Krustev, in fulfilment of his last will and testament presented his own collection of 80 books in more than six languages on Mount Athos and the Zograph Monastery to the University Library “St. Kliment Ohridski”. She expressed her happiness to make the donation and was fully convinced that the place of her late husband’s collection was amongst the MSs of the digital library.

At the end of the event, Associate Professor Angelova, Director of the University Library, expressed her deep conviction that on the eve of every future May, 24th we shall celebrate the further enrichment of the digital collection, not only with new MSs, but also with new institutions and wished that the Zograph site would become bigger and bigger, and be on a par with the world standards.

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