THE BOOK OF FAITH

Kniga o vere edinoi istinnoi pravoslavnoi [Book of the one true Orthodox faith].

Moscow, Stefan Boniface, 1648.

Folio, 310 x 195mm, ll. [269], without the first (blank) leaf, text printed in Old Church Slavonic, f. 1 and 10 printed in red and black, with large woodcut head-pieces and ornamental initials, occasional red headlines, highlights, sidenotes and initials, light toning, heavier at end, margins a little dust-soiled, a few small marks, still a very good copy in contemporary full calf over wooden boards, upper board with blind-tooled floral roll borders to a panel design, tooled centre piece of a unicorn trampling a ram in central panel with traces of gilt, Slavonic lettered panels ‘Kniga Gl[agol]emaia’ (This book is called) above and below, lower board blind-tooled with geometric roll tools to a panel design, spine in compartments, brass clasps, a little light wear to joints and extremities; from the Macclesfield library, with the Shirburn castle blind-stamp to first and last three leaves of text, near-contemporary inscription detailing the acquisition by Christian Hoppe in Moscow in 1675 and manuscript shelf marks to the front pastedown.

£7500

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First edition, very rare, of a book of Orthodox liturgy and theology. Beginning with prayers, this is a compilation of writings on all aspects of the Orthodox tradition, including a variety of polemical treatises against heretics, Catholics, and traitors to the Orthodox faith, some of which has been taken by Abbot Nathanael of Kiev from the earlier writings of Zechariah Kopystensky, Archimandrite of the Kiev-Pechersk Monastery. Both philosophical and theological in content, chapters cover the state of religion and belief in Russia, the differences between the Eastern and Western churches, the significance of icons, apostolic power, churches, the role of the Patriarch and more.

Unsurprisingly, this ‘definitive’ text did not please everyone. Within a short time of his installation, Patriarch Nikon, on a mission to reform the Russian orthodox church in favour of the ways of the Byzantine original, had condemned many of the included texts as un-Orthodox, reserving his particular displeasure for the thirtieth chapter, to which he attributed an unwelcome eschatological interpretation that in 1666 would come the spiritual reign of the Antichrist.

The biblical unicorn and ram motif of the binding (most notably present in Daniel 8:1-27), symbolizes the true (Christian) faith assuming supremacy over the other religions of the world.

The inscription reads: ‘Сею книга купилъ Христьянъ Христьяновъ с(ы)нъ Хоппе Теологие и Филозофие Студиозусь Бешыковского города земьли Лаузеницкои иноземецъ на Москве лета 7183-г(о) или по-немецькие 1675-г(о) за 6 ефимъков.’ Christian Christianov, the son of Hoppe, a theology and philosophy student from the town of Beshkov(?) in Lausen [Switzerland], a foreigner, bought this book in Moscow in 7183, that is 1675 in the German style, for 6 Efimki’.

Zernova (1958) no. 209 (listing 3 copies in Moscow and 2 in St. Petersburg)

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