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French books with Catherine II´s coat of arms from the former Hermitage Library

Sergey V. Korolev
p. 659-666

Texte intégral

1Among the books transferred from the Hermitage library to the Imperial Public Library (now National Library of Russia, NLR) in the middle of the 19th century, special attention should be given to the books having the imperial coat of arms of the Catherine II’s epoch on the covers. These copies should be studied in the context of the attention which was given by the French scientific community to the Russian Empress at this time.

2It is necessary to note that authors (or editors of these works) inspired by the Denis Diderot’s example, undoubtedly hoped to receive some preferences from Catherine II. This explains that senders went into certain expenses, ordering not only making of “de luxe” binding, but also manufacturing of special stamp, which was impressed in both binding covers. Since styled definitions of imperial coat of arms differ considerably in details on all described copies (except works by d´Alembert), we can suppose, that stamps were manufactured for being used only once and were produced by different masters.

3We would like to note also, that Catherine II knew, some of the authors of the books. Other three authors received preliminary recommendations from Diderot, the person the Empress trusted in Paris.

4The presence of the described copies in the Hermitage Library doesn´t mean that Catherine II acquainted herself with them personally. At the end of 1770s the amount of books and manuscripts addressed to Catherine was so big, that Russian diplomats in Europe were prohibited from receiving non-official gifts.

5It is interesting, that impressing of styled imperial coat of arms on books addressed to Catherine II, is apparently solely French tradition : we haven´t found any similar copy, from German or English origin.

6The copies are described according to the following plan :

7H: Press mark according to the Hermitage Library book-plate of the 1st half of the 19th century (bookcase..., shelf..., #...).

8N: Modern press mark NLR. Short-title. Honorary degrees of the author, if they are indicated on the title page.

9B: Characteristic features of the binding. Printed dedication to Catherine II (if such is present).

10National Library of Russia.

11bookart@ yandex. ru

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Sergey V. Korolev, « French books with Catherine II´s coat of arms from the former Hermitage Library », Cahiers du monde russe [En ligne], 47/3 | 2006, mis en ligne le 01 janvier 2007, Consulté le 18 février 2018. URL :

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© École des hautes études en sciences sociales, Paris.

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