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The following article is from The Great Soviet Encyclopedia (1979). It might be outdated or ideologically biased.



a penchant for collecting rare and valuable editions. In addition to its great importance to the intellectual and spiritual development of the collector (bibliophile) himself, bibliophilism plays a considerable social role by facilitating the creation of outstanding collections of printed works as well as the preservation of rare editions and specific copies of books. These may be notable because of the quality of the printing, illustrations, or bindings; they may contain autographs or inscriptions by their former owners and readers that are of historical and scholarly interest. Many bibliophilic collections have formed the bases of large public libraries.

The custom of collecting works of written literature originated in remote antiquity in the East and later in ancient Greece and Rome. During the Middle Ages there were notable private collections of manuscript books—for example, that of the English bishop R. de Bury, the author of a treatise on bibliophilism entitled Philobiblon (The Love of Books; 1345). After the invention and the spread of book printing (dating from the middle of the 15th century), printed editions gradually came to occupy an increasingly greater place in the collections of bibliophiles. However, old manuscript books have also remained extremely valuable objects for collection.

With respect to content, bibliophilism has a varied character, depending upon the interests, tastes, and goals of the collector. Of the greatest historical and cultural value are those collections that contain old manuscripts, incunabula, and books dating from the 16th and 17th centuries, especially publications by such masters of the printing art as Aldus Manutius (Venice), the Estienne family (Paris), Plantin (Antwerp), and the Elzevir family (Leiden and Amsterdam). Equally valuable are the early printed Slavic books of S. Fiol (Kraków), Francisk (Georgij) Skorina (Prague and Vilnius), and Ivan Fedorov (Moscow, Zabludovo, L’vov, and Ostrog), first editions of the classics of world literature, and books forbidden by papal indexes, censorship, and other authorities. Of special scholarly value are collections devoted to specific branches of knowledge and art that encompass considerable periods of their development.

Among bibliophiles of the past the following are famous: J. Grolier (1479–1565); J. de Thou (1553–1617); Cardinal J. Mazarin (1602–61), whose library contained 45,000 printed books and 400 manuscripts; and the Polish bishop Józef Zaluski (1702–74), who collected more than 250,000 books and manuscripts. From the beginning of the 19th century bibliophilism underwent extensive growth in Western Europe, especially in France and Britain. Bibliophilic societies and clubs came into being, specialized journals were published, and auctions were held for the sale of rare books.

In Russia bibliophilism originated in the 16th century (Prince A. M. Kurbskii and Ioannikii Stroganov had famous collections). During the 17th and the first half of the 18th centuries the following were renowned as booklovers: the boyar A. S. Matveev, Simeon Polotskii, Sil’vestr Medvedev, Andrei Vinius, Stefan Iavorskii, Iakov Brius (who bequeathed his scholarly library to the St. Petersburg Academy of Sciences), D. M. Golitsyn, and V. N. Tatishchev. In the late 18th century the largest collection of Russian books and manuscripts belonged to A. I. Musin-Pushkin and included the sole manuscript copy of The Tale of Igor’s Campaign; however, this collection was destroyed in 1812 in a fire in Moscow. Also burned at that time was Count D. P. Buturlin’s remarkable library of foreign books, in which incunabula alone amounted to a total of 6,000. The extremely rich collection of Western European manuscripts, numbering as many as 11,000 items (including manuscripts from the fifth to the tenth century), assembled by P. P. Dubrovskii in France during the last years of the 18th century, served as the foundation for the manuscript division of the St. Petersburg Public Library (now the Saltykov-Shchedrin State Public Library). Among 19th-century Russian bibliophiles were the following: A. S. Pushkin, S. A. Sobolevskii, Count N. P. Rumiantsev (who compiled a collection of 28,000 printed books, 710 manuscripts, and 1,500 maps, which formed the foundation of the Rumiantsev Museum library in Moscow, now the Lenin State Library of the USSR), A. D. Chertkov (who collected materials on the history of Russia and neighboring countries, now preserved in the State Public Historical Library in Moscow), A. P. Bakhrushin, P. A. Efremov, and la. F. Berezin-Shiriaev. Bibliophiles from the early 20th century included G. V. Iudin, A. E. Burtsev, D. V. Ul’ianinskii, and N. P. Likhachev. Descriptions of private libraries were published together with catalogs of “rare items” available from the antiquarian, secondhand book stores of P. P. Shibanov, V. I. Klochkov, and others. In St. Petersburg, N. V. Solovev published the journals Antikvar (1902–03) and Russkii bibliofil (1911–16).

Many Soviet figures in science and culture are also well known as collectors of valuable books and as authors of works concerning books. Among them are M. Gorky, V. A. Desnitskii, V. la. Adariukov, P. N. Berkov, E. F. Gollerbakh, V. G. Lidin, A. I. Markushevich, I. N. Rozanov, A. A. Sidorov, and N. P. Smirnov-Sokol’skii. During the 1920’s and 1930’s there were two scholarly bibliophilic groups: the Moscow Russian Society of Friends of Books (1920–29) and the Leningrad Society of Bibliophiles (1923–31). In a number of cities throughout the USSR (Moscow, Leningrad, Kharkov, Odessa, and others), clubs, societies, and groups of booklovers have recently come into being.


Ul’ianinskii, D. V. Sredi knig i ikh druzei. Moscow, 1903.
Pokhvala knige. Compiled by Professor I. A. Shliapkin. Petrograd, 1917.
Al’manakh bibliófilo. Leningrad, 1929.
Mez’er, A. V. Slovarnyi ukazatel’ po knigovedeniiu. Leningrad, 1924.
Smirnov-Sokol’skii, N. P. Rasskazy o knigakh, 2nd ed. Moscow, 1960.
Neizdannye pis’ma inostrannykh pisatelei XVIII-XIX vekov: Iz leningradskikh rukopisnykh sobranii. Edited by M. P. Alekseev. Moscow-Leningrad, 1960.
Lidin, B. G. Druz’ia moi—knigi: Zametki knigoliuba, 2nd ed. Moscow, 1966.
Berkov, P. N. O liudiakh i knigakh (Iz zapisok knigoliuba). Moscow, 1965.
Berkov, P. N. Russkie knigoliuby: Ocherki. Moscow-Leningrad, 1967.
Lasunskii, O. G. Vlast’ knigi: Rasskazy o knigakh i knizhnikakh. [Voronezh, 1966.]
Kirchner, J. Lexikon des Buchwesens, vols. 1–4. Stuttgart, 1952–56.
Bogeng.G. A. E. Die grossen Bibliophilen, Geschichte derBiichersammler und ihrer Sammlungen, vols. 1–3. Leipzig, 1922.
Lonchamp, F. C. Manuel du Bibliophile francais, 1470–1920, vols. 1–2. Paris-Lausanne, 1927.


The Great Soviet Encyclopedia, 3rd Edition (1970-1979). © 2010 The Gale Group, Inc. All rights reserved.
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