The book has a special significance in the Old Believer culture since the schism in the Russian Orthodox church started from the book reform.
The schism started in 1653, when a revised edition of the Psalter was published in the Moscow Print Yard. Shortly after the appearance of the new Psalter Patriarch Nikon ordered a reform of the liturgical books. The publication of the altered Typikon in 1655 turned out to be fatal for the Russian society. In mid 17th century Russia, all service books were divided on two groups: the old, pre-Nikonian books and the new, Nikonian ones.
The Old Belivers hold to the old tradition and have a special respect to the pre-Nikonian manuscripts and black-letter books.
The state’s monopoly over the book printing didn’t allow the Old Believers to publish the books that would meet their spiritual needs. They had to get along with pre-reform editions and hand-copied works. The Old Believers’ manuscript tradition has not perished: it has passed all trials of time and persists, with slight changes, nowadays.
The Old Believer manuscript book
The Old Believer book is a special type of manuscript books that rests on the Old Russian tradition of book writing and printing. While copying books, Old Believers tried to imitate old models of decoration and scripts.
They used the semiuncial script (poluustav) and black ink in the text body and red ink (cinnabar) in the titles. Titles were often written in the decorated script (vyaz’). An ornamental tailpiece was placed at the end of the body text.A decorated frame (headpiece) introduced richly decorated manuscripts, as if imitating the black-letter books. Decorated initials and miniatures were set at the beginning of the work. The ornaments of the song manuscripts were particularly rich and variegated.
There were two main decoration styles in the Old Believer manuscript tradition: the Pomorian style (in the priestless Old Belief) and the Guslitsky style, along with the adjacent Vetkovsky style (in the priested Old Belief).
The black contour of the main figure and the free field filled with gold and muted green and crimson colors – that was the traditional Pomorian ornament. The drawing included favorite elements: the Baroque broad-leaf vegetal ornament with the obligatory crimson “grapes”.
The Guslitsky style is named after the historical region of Guslitsa in the Bogoroditsky district near Moscow. The bright luxuriant ornament that combines elements of the Old Russian and European Baroque decoration is characteristic of the Guslitsky style. The ornament is performed in multiple shades of blue, red, crimson, green and yellow colors with gold and contains birds’ images.
The Old Believers of Estonia do not use Guslitsky manuscripts in their liturgical practice: the latter belong to the different tradition. Yet local book collections contain certain Guslitsky manuscripts, which probably appeared here in the 20th century, when the official communication between the representatives of the different Old Believer concords started at the conferences, meetings and congresses.
The original Pomorian manuscripts can be currently seen almost in all Old Believer communities of Estonia.
The manuscript heritage of the Old Believers of Estonia consists of two parts: the Prichudye manuscript collection of the Archive of the Institute of Russian Literature (the Pushkin House) in St.-Petersburg and the books kept in prayer houses and Old Believers’ families in Tartu, TartuCounty and Tallinn.
During the 1958-79 archeographic expeditions to Prichudye, researchers of the Archive of the Pushkin House brought out more than 200 books that formed the Prichudye manuscript collection.
Old Believer book printing
Since the number of the pre-Nikonian books eventually decreased as a result of their usage and deterioration as well as the Tsarist policy of expropriation, yet the book-copying was time-consuming, Old Believers started looking for the opportunities of book printing.
The first fruits of the Old Believer book printing appeared early in the 18th century. After a few publications, the printing stopped and was resumed only in the late 1760s, however.
Restrictions on the book printing in Russia prompted Old Believers to seek for the printing opportunities in neighbor Rech Pospolita where printing centers abounded and book publishing was free from state control.
As a result, about 150 Old Believer editions were published in Vilna, Pochaevo and Supraśl Uniate printeries, P. Dufort’s private printery, Warsaw and Grodno municipal printing houses in 1770-1790s.In Vilna, the Old Believer editions were published till the early 19th century.
Local masters modeled founts and ornaments on the pre-Nikonian books of the Moscow Print Yard especially for these editions.
A new raise of the Old Believer book printing started from the 1860s. Whereas in the early period the main initiators of the book printing and owners of printeries were merchants, in the 19th century the initiative passed to peasants and the petty townspeople estate (meshchanstvo).
In the late 19th century, the hectographic book production and other types of copying became popular among the Old Believers.
A legal opportunity ofbook printing was granted to the Old Believers only in 1905. That was the beginning of a new period when the geographical range of printing expanded, professional skills of typographers advanced, printeries were enlarged and the new printing techniques emerged.
Yet the period of free printing was relatively short. The Bolshevist atheistic government did not tolerate Old Believers’ book printing and started closing their printing houses from 1918.
The first local Old Believer publications are from the period of the first EstonianRepublic in 1918-1940. Riga was the main local provider of the Old Believer literature.
There was no Old Believer book printing under the Soviet rule.
Currently the Society of the Old Believer Culture and Development of Estonia takes care of the Old Believer book publishing.