The Christian Topography of Cosmas Indicopleustes

The Christian Topography of Cosmas Indicopleustes is a literary monument of Byzantine origin. The book was written in the sixth century by the monk Cosmas, whose sobriquet, Indicopleustes, points to an earlier career as a merchant and traveler. The work was widely disseminated in translation in Russia, where it had a long manuscript tradition and was read and transcribed for centuries. Among the Old Believers (dissenters from Russian Orthodox reforms in the mid-17th century), the work remains popular to the present day. In terms of content, the composition is a medieval encyclopedia of a unique character. It contains knowledge of both a theological and a natural philosophical or scientific character, and describes, from the perspective of Christian dogma, human understanding of the surrounding world: the structure of the universe, the geography of the world, the nature of humanity, the animal world, and so forth. Manuscripts of the work as a rule were illustrated. This copy contains many colorful miniatures illustrating the book’s themes. The manuscript, which dates from the early 19th century, is from the collections of the Institute of History of the Siberian Branch of the Russian Academy of Sciences (II SO RAN) in Novosibirsk, Russia, and was acquired in Vostochno-Kazakhstanskaia Oblast (part of present-day Kazakhstan). It was digitized in the early 2000s as part of the Meeting of Frontiers project of the Library of Congress and partner institutions in the Russian Federation, the United States, and Germany.

The Apocalypse (Revelation of Saint John the Divine)

The Apocalypse (Revelation of Saint John the Divine) is a book from the New Testament dealing primarily with eschatological topics, i.e., the final fate of the world and mankind, the reign of the Antichrist on earth, the second coming of Christ, his victory over the Antichrist, and the final judgment. The eschatological content of the Apocalypse made it one of the most popular books among the Russian Old Believers. A version of the Apocalypse with commentary, probably written in the late-sixth century by the Eastern Christian theologian Andrew, Archbishop of Caesarea in Cappadocia, was the most widely read text among the Old Believers. Other versions with commentary by other theologians supplementing that of Andrew of Caesarea also were in circulation. Quite often these annotated manuscripts of the Apocalypse were illustrated with colorful miniatures. Presented here is a splendid example of this type of Apocalypse—an 18th-century manuscript from the collections of the Institute of History of the Siberian Branch of the Russian Academy of Sciences (II SO RAN) in Novosibirsk, Russia. It was acquired during the institute’s archeographic expedition to Tomsk Oblast in 1972 and digitized in the early 2000s as part of the Meeting of Frontiers project of the Library of Congress and partner institutions in the Russian Federation, the United States, and Germany.