NIL SORSKII (Saint, c.1433-1508). 'Vertograd Dushevnyi umnago ili myslennago Delanniia tvorenie Prepodobnago i Bogonosnago Otsa nashego Nila nachal'nika skitskago Sorskiia Pustyni iazhe na Bele ozere' [The Garden of the Soul, the Work of Father Nil, founder of the Hermitage of Sorsk], in Church Slavonic, ILLUSTRATED MANUSCRIPT ON PAPER, Central Russia, 1829. (222 x 190mm) i+29+64+21 leaves (foliation in Slavonic alphabetic numerals): 17 (of 18, lacking i), 2-158, 164; 19 lines per page in black ink, title, headings and capitals in red, three full-page illustrations, the Saint praying in a landscape (1v, trimmed and laid down, possibly replacing the illustration from the missing first leaf), the Saint writing in an interior (29v), the Saint seated with monks in an interior (64v), 4 decorative headpieces and 6 tailpieces, a pencil drawing of Sorsk Hermitage inscribed 'From nature V. Bogoliubov' (lower right) on brown paper pasted on verso of front end-paper, a drawing of a maiden kneeling before a grave in a wooded landscape and four lines in Russian from Goethe on virtue pasted on lower end-paper (a few leaves slightly spotted). Contemporary Russian sheep, covers with blindstamped foliate border, gilt edges (hinges cracked, wear at extremities). Provenance: Ieromonakh Varfolomei of Briansk Beloberezhsk Hermitage (possibly the scribe of the manuscript; inscription on first 7 leaves of text) -- George-Alexander, Duke of Mecklenburg-Strelitz (1859-1909, bookplate).
FROM THE MECKLENBURG COLLECTION. Saint Nil Sorskii was one of the founders of the ascetic monastic movement in Russia, teaching the power of poverty and self-sustenance, for which he was highly revered during his life-time. The text opens with an account of his life with a foreword by Father Vasilii of Merulaia Poliana followed by his teachings. The second part comprises the text of the 'Garden of Wisdom' in 11 chapters, with a final commentary by Father Vasilii. The illustrations are iconic in character, but the head- and tail-pieces of flowers and fruit are unusual, with one a cartouche enclosing the illustration of the dove returning to Noah's ark.