National Library of Serbia Manuscripts
The Digital National Library of Serbia has more than five hundred cyrillic manuscripts available online¶. (in english) The images above were selected from: National library of Serbia's collection of cyrillic manuscripts (RS); Jernej Kopitar's collection of slavic manuscripts (Kop) and the Chester Beatty collection (Dublin) of cyrillic manuscripts (RU).
At best, the array of images above gives a modest overview of the styles of manuscript text decoration that can be found among the library's holdings. But really, this is just a sampling without too much in the way of cohesive storyline or connection between the works - apart from the writing script - in terms of location, era, scriptoria and copyists involved or background influences. Perhaps it might be said that the majority are religious in nature.
A wall of complexity meets even the most basic of background enquiries. The Slavic peoples inhabit lands stretching from the Balkans through Eastern Europe and on up to Western Russia. The cyrillic script (and its antecedents) provides the basic written units for a dozen or more related languages. The Balkan Slavs were inheritors of Byzantium culture, but Oriental and Scandinavian influences are also important. The knotwork decoration seen in many of the images above suggest a significant influence by (or, say, exchange with) the Celtic manuscript tradition (eg.). Factor in the relocation of manuscripts, the migrational patterns of people over centuries, wars, a thin record/colophon in relation to many of the Medieval Slavic and cyrillic manuscripts; and an interested casual observer, hoping for some overarching storyline about the background to this body of work, meets instead a veritable maze of possibilities. [trust that some of this is inaccurate]
Some of the sites I persused in my less than extensive travels (many of them fairly tangential):
- Wikipedia: cyrillic alphabet; Slavic people; endless knot; George Bain.
- New Advent: Illuminated Manuscripts.
- Windows to the Past - Serbia's Written Heritage by Mary Nicklanovich.
- Old Russian and South Slavonic Manuscript Books at NLR.
- Russian Manuscript Illumination at NYPL.
- Encyclopedia of the Middle Ages By André Vauchez et al.
- The Society for the Promotion of Byzantine Studies Online (link set)
- Societas Celto-Slavica.
- Miroslav's Gospel at WDL. [Addit. More here]
- Update: redrawing the script at Ministry of Type.
- Update 2: Seems appropriate to add this here --- 'Croatian glagolitic heritage related to Lika, Krbava, Gatska, Modrus and Senj' by Darko Zubrinic.
The site is easy enough to navigate, although it's fairly unique web architecture. You can load each collection in a flash or html page. When you choose and load a manuscript in the flash screen, click on 'book images' to get all the thumbnails. If you want to load the jpeg file of a manuscript page, click the print icon at the top and it will open another tab with the image.