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The first dated printed book published in Russia

1 March 1564

Before the book printing began in Russia a book was an expensive object. Only cathedrals, the largest convents and tsar’s libraries stored relatively complete collections of the handwritten books. In spite of the fact that the book printing was invented in the middle of the 15th century, the first Russian printed books appeared only a century after that owing to the creation of the tsar’s typography in 1553 in Moscow. Before the reforms of the patriarch Nikon in 1650-1660 the typography had issued about 250.000 books.

At first the Russian editions were published without notice on the date of issue. The first dated printed book in Russia appeared only in 1564. On April 19, 1563 Ivan Feodorov supported by his apprentice and assistant Pyotr Mstislavets with the blessing of metropolitan Makariy started to print the ‘Apostolos’. According to the printers the work was completed ‘… in the year of 7070 on the first day of March  [March 1st, 1564] in the time of archbishop Afanasiy, the metropolitan of All Russia. All the output data of the book and the history of its issue the authors placed in the ‘Apostol’ afterword.

The text of the book is written systematically, in the beginning of each part is presented the table of contents of the subsections and their contents in brief. There are no obsolete words or non Slavic expressions. Ivan Feodorov made rich headpieces for each section, colorful vignettes in the upper part of a page, initial capitals in the beginning of the paragraphs. The book is supplied with a large frontispiece gravure representing a evangelist Luka. It was the first gravure in the history of the Russian art where a man’s figure is the center of the composition.

Right after the issue of ‘Apostol’ the printers became subject to persecutions from books’ copyist fearing competition. After the arson which destroyed their workshop Feodorov and Mstislavets were forced to run away to the Grand Duchy of Lithuania where they continued their work in the typography founded in the estate of hetman Khodkevitch.

Lit.: Апостол 1564 года [Электронный ресурс] // Книжные памятники Русского Севера. Б. д. URL:; Бахтиаров А. А. История книги на Руси. СПб., 1890; Апостол. М., 1564; То же [Электронный ресурс]. URL:Издания%20Ивана%20Федорова/Апостол-московское%20издание/index.html; Немировский Е. Л. Иван Федоров (Москвитин) // Словарь книжников и книжности Древней Руси. Вып. 2 (вторая половина XIV-XVI в.). Ч. 2. Л., 1989; У истоков русского книгопечатания. М., 1959.

From the Presidential library materials:

Denisov L. I. First printers Johann Gutenberg and Ivan Fedorov. Moscow, 1908;

Ivan Fedorov, first printer: [collection]. Moscow; Leningrad, 1935;

Petrushevich A. S. Ivan Fedorov Russian first printer: historical-bibliographic reasoning. Lviv, 1883;

Savelyev A. A. Ivan Fedorov's publications in the collection of the St. Petersburg State University scientific library: [video lecture]. St. Petersburg, 2014. 57 min 58 sec.;

Sirenov A. V. Handwritten and printed book in Russia XVI-XVII centuries. : [video lecture]. St. Petersburg, 2014. 48 min 04 sec.;

Yemelyanova E. A. The 450th anniversary of the beginning of printing in Russia: [video lecture]. St. Petersburgrary, 2014. 30 min 43 sec.