Russian Federation - The Radzivill Chronicle

Written in old Russian, this monumental work reveals the history of Russia and its neighbors from the fifth to the early thirteenth century in pictorial form, representing events described in the manuscript with more than six hundred colour illustrations.

© Russian Academy of Science Library
The Novgorod ambassador meets Prince Andrei

Known to the scholarly community according to its ownership in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, the Radzivill, or Kenigsberg Chronicle, is the most ancient surviving example of the art of Russian illuminated chronicle. 

It is a fifteenth century copy of a thirteenth century archetype held by the Library of the Russian Academy of Sciences in Saint Petersburg (BAN). 

The Radzivill Chronicle's combination of text and illustration places this manuscript in the company of such acknowledged masterpieces as the Madrid copy of the Greek Illuminated Chronicle of Ioann Scilipa, the Vatican copy of the Bulgarian Translated Chronicle of Konstantin Manassia, the Budapest copy of the Hungarian Illuminated Chronicle, and the copies of the Big French Chronicles. Among these, the Radzivill is distinguished for the richness and quantity of its illustrations. The text of the manuscript has been published many times. However, the illustrations have been published only once, at the turn of the century, as part of a black and white reproduction of the entire Chronicle. 

In the centuries since its creation, the manuscript has sustained significant damage. Its binding has been replaced several times, the edges of leaves have been cut, and the painted miniatures have been worn by age and use. The Radzivill Chronicle was restored on two occasions in this century. 

The increasing fragility of the original manuscript, together with its preeminence in the Russian literature, has left BAN to share a dilemma faced by libraries around the world charged with the care and wise use of cultural treasures. Handling of the Radzivill Chronicle, itself, must me restricted to preserve its material well-being. At the same time, the scholarly and scientific enterprise to which the Library is dedicated argues for access to this important document for serious research. This is why the Library has turned to a digital medium - to display the manuscript in full color while preserving the original. 

A prototype Photo CD is produced with the support of UNESCO and the Library of Congress, as a pilot project and a demonstration of the use of digital media in the service of preservation.

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