Size. Content

The collection of Slavonic and foreign medieval and late medieval manuscripts encompasses a total of about 1,700 manuscripts, the majority of which are organised in relevant catalogues. These are mainly books with religious and dogmatic content intended for liturgical use and the daily needs of the monastic life: gospels, psalters, apostles, ordinals,liturgicons, missals, various types of miscellanies,  – calendar, of moral instructions, with essays in Christian dogmatics, saints’ passionals, mixed content miscellanies, including often different apocryphal writings, hymnography collections, compilations of secular laws and ecclesiastical regulations (nomokanons), liturgical books, beadrolls, etc.This collections also contain secular and scholarly literature – translated and original works, including writings from the Antiquity, the Middle Ages, examples of the European scientific thought, the Bulgarian Revival (the Romance of Alexander, the “Trojan horse” parable, historical writings, letters, textbooks, dictionaries, various treatises, etc.

The Slavonic handwritten collection contains Bulgarian, Serbian, Wallachian, Moldavian and Russian literary monuments. It presents a wealth of historical materials of our written culture during the late Middle Ages, the Age of the Ottoman rule and the Bulgarian National Revival thanks to the preserved written records from the period of development of the Bulgarian literature and the Bulgarian language, the South Slavonic Cyrillic script, as well as various information about the cultural history not only in theBulgarian lands, but also in the entire Balkan region. It provides valuable insight into the production of the largest Bulgarian cultural centres during the centuries – Turnovo with the surrounding monasteries in the 13th and 14th centuries, the literary school in the Rila Monastery formthe 14th and 15th centuries tothe end of the handwritten tradition in the 18th century, Sofia and its monasteries, Lovech and Lovech monastery, Kuklen monastery, some of the monasteries on Mount Athos, the Bachkovo monastery, the literary centres in Etropole and Adjar village, Plovdiv, Kotel, etc. and also the small scriptoria where manuscripts were copied for specific occasions on the territory of Bulgaria. Among the signed manuscripts one can see the names of men of letters such as priest Dobreisho, priest Ioann, priest Gerasim, Rila’s copier monk Mardarii, the monk Spiridon, the priestmonkVisarion of Debar, Peter the Grammarian, the priestmonkDaniil of Etropole, AvramDimitrievich, the schoolteacher Nedjalko and his son Filip, YosifBradati, Nikifor of Rila, the priestmonkPamvo of Kalofer, Peter Tsarski, the priest Puncho, Sophronius of Vratsa (the priest StoykoVladislavov) and others. The collection of Greek manuscripts, the majority of which were created for the needs of the liturgy, reflects the relationship of the Bulgarians with the Patriarchate of Constantinople, under whose ecclesiastical power and cultural oppression our people lived during the centuries of Ottoman domination. These books, albeit very modestly, continue the Byzantine cultural traditions.

The data on the origin of the Greek manuscripts in the Library is rather scarce. Most of the manuscripts were donated or purchased from different regions of Bulgaria (Arbanasi, Bachkovo monastery, Varna, Pomorie, Sozopol, etc.) and were written by Bulgarians. Some manuscripts originated from the monasteries of Mount Athos – Vatopedi, Hilandar, Zograph and others, inhabited in the past by Bulgarian monks.

A valuable part of the collection is the CanticaEcclesiastica (18th–19th centuries). It contains 34 anthems  –anastasimatarions,katabasiai, heirmologions, etc., most of which are written in Bulgarian and havebeautiful ornamental neumes.



The establishment of the National Library in 1878 marked the start of the collection ofmanuscripts Slavic and foreign languages, arranged in a special cupboard in the office of the Director of the Library .To compile the manuscript collections specialists from the Ministry of Education and from the Library itself, collected and purchased Slavic, Greek and other foreign (non-Slavic) manuscripts for the national book depository , old-printed books and newspapers and journals of the revival period. Prof.BenjioTsonev, one of the few specialists in the field of book studies, palaeography and history of the Bulgarian language at the time, was invited by the Literary Monuments Evaluation Committee to make an initial processing of the valuable manuscripts. Among the first acquisitions was the collection donated by MeletiZografski, Metropolitan of Sofia, the extensive book collections of Prof. Marin Drinov, Petko R. Slaveikov, NaydenGerov and manuscripts from the collection of the Bulgarian Literary Society in Braila, etc. A great number of ancient antiquities discovered and collected from different churches and monasteries on the Bulgarian ethnic territory reached the Library thanks to the Bulgarian Exarchate in Constantinople,the Ministry of Education, the National (later Archeological) Museum in Sofia, and due to the assistance of Bulgarian scientists and public figures such asVasilIkonomov, DimoKaradimov, the merchant TomaZaiko and others.Part of the Greek manuscripts in the collection were brought from Ohrid by the enlightened public figureEftimSprostranov..

In 1995, two collections from the United Bulgarian Bank (UBB collection) and the Bulgarian Multimedia Company (the BMC collection) were donated to enrichthe collection of Slavonic manuscripts

The special Department “Manuscripts and Old Printed Books” was created in 1948. Dr. Mani Stoyanov was appointed as its head. In January 1978, by order of the Director of the Library, two separate “Manuscripts“ Departments were created, which included the Bulgarian Archeological Commission, resumed in 1977and the collection „Old printed, rare and valuable publications“. Their heads – Prof.Dr.BojidarRaykov and Assoc. Prof. Lydia Dragolova, as graduates of Dr. M. Stoyanov, strengthened the partnership and cooperation between these departments over the years.Since 1996, the two departments reunited.

Prominent specialists in the field of codicology and paleography have worked in the department as heads or staff members: Prof. B. Tsonev, Dr. M. Stoyanov, Prof. H. Kodov and Prof.BojidarRaikov.



The overall collection consists of:

A collection of Slavonic manuscripts, about 1,500 library units, subdivided geographically and arranged in sections by language:

– Bulgarian Cyrillic manuscripts from the 11th to the 19th centuries; the oldest in the collection is the ENINA APOSTLE (NBKM 1144) from 11th century; a number of manuscripts from the 13th century are preserved, among which the ARGIROV TRIODION (NBKM 933) and the GOSPEL LECTIONARY (VELES GOSPEL, NBKM 18).One of the most interesting and valuable manuscripts in this collection is the DOBREISHO GOSPEL (NBKM 17). Among the 14th century manuscripts, the most valuable are those related to the literary and reformist activity of the monasteries on Mount Athos and around Tarnovo.  The MISCELLANY OF 16 ORATIONS OF GREGORY THE THEOLOGIAN represents the Tarnovo Literary School (NBKM 674). The FOUR GOSPELS (NBKM 22) with miniatures of the Evangelists also belong to that period. The Psalter, known as SHOPOV – KARADIMOV PSALTIR (NKBM 454 + 1138), represents the Mount Athos version of the Slavonic translation of this book. PATRIARCH EVTIMII’S LEITOURGICON (NBKM 231) is of special significance to the history of Bulgarian literature and Bulgarian medieval history.

The end of the manuscript tradition in the 18th century was marked by written monuments of great significance to the history of Bulgarian culture, among which wasISTORIYA SLAVYANOBOLGARSKAYA byPaisius of Hilendar, preserved in THE FIRST SOFRONII (KOTEL) COPY of 1765 (NBKM 368);

South Slavonic manuscripts (from today’s Macedonian and Serbian lands) from 12th to 19th centuries; among the many treasures of the library is one of the rare illustrated early transcripts of the AlEXANDRIA CODEX OF SOFIA  – a 15th-century manuscript collection that includes the illustrated “Alexandria”. One manuscript, written in Croatian Glagolitic script is also part of this collection;

Wallachian and Moldavian manuscripts from 15th to 18th centuries, most of which follow the traditions of Tarnovo Literary School;

Russian manuscripts; a few copies, among which THE FOUR BUSINCI GOSPELS (NBKM 52) from 16th century.

The collection contains a large number of fragments, including single manuscript sheets as well asseveral charters of Walachian and Moldavian princes from 15th to 16th centuries. The major part of the collection belongs to the National Library and is signed “NBKM” (NacionalnaBiblioteka “Sv. Sv. “KiriliMetodij” / St. St. Cyril and Methodius National Library), while the two external collections are signed respectively “OBB”(ObedinenaBulgarska Banka / United Bulgarian Bank)” and “BMC” (BalgarskaMultimediinaKompanija / Bulgarian Multimedia Company).

Collection of foreign language manuscripts arranged by language and geographical area:

Greek manuscripts from the 10th-19th centuries; the collection includes 159 Greek manuscripts of which the last ten are not registered in the catalogue. The late 10th-century parchment fragment of the GOSPEL LECTIONARY (NBKM Gr. 2) , the 11th century PROPHETOLOGION (NBKM Gr. 18), the TYPICON (NBKM Gr. 56) from 14th century and the LEITOURGIKON (NBKM Gr. 41) from 17th century are of great importance to paleographers;

Latin manuscripts – the collection contains eight manuscripts from the 13th to the 19th centuries, the oldest being the ROMAN MISSAL (NBKM Lat. 1) from the 13th century. Very valuable is the LATIN ANTIPHONARION, given to the National Library by the famous pianist Yuri Boukoff;

Romanian manuscripts – the collection contains eight manuscripts from the 17th and 18th centuries;

German manuscripts – the collection contains four manuscripts from the 18th and 19th centuries;

Italian manuscripts – the collection contains three manuscripts from the 18th and 19th centuries; Here we should mention the IL NAUTICO (sailing directions) from 1758 (NBKM Ital. 2).

The foreign-language collection also includes one Armenian manuscript – ARMENIAN FOUR GOSPELS from 966 (NBKM Arm. 1), one 18th century Georgian manuscript, a copy of the Bachkovo Monastery Typikon (NBKM Georg. 1), and three Hebrew scrolls dating back to the 15th-17th centuries.



Besides the main collection of manuscripts, a collection of microfilms and microfiches is a significant part of the Slavonic manuscripts of Bulgarian origin, and belongs to the Manuscripts and Old Printed Books Department, as well as microfilms of Bulgarian manuscripts kept in other Bulgarian libraries (the library of the Rila Monastery, the Ivan Vazov National Library in Plovdiv, the collection of the Regional History Museum in Shumen) and in foreign libraries (The Vatican Apostolic Library, the Austrian National Library, the British Library, the monasteries of Mount Athos – the Hilandar Monastery, the Zograph monastery, the Holy and Great Monastery of Vatopedi, the French National Library, the National Library in Warsaw, etc.) These copies are subject to digitization, a process that has recently begun. Series of photocopies show individual manuscripts from the collections of the Archives of the Bulgarian Academy of Sciences, the Ecclesiastical Historical and Archival Institute of the Patriarchate of Bulgaria, the National Library in Plovdiv and the Rila Monastery. Some of the most famous handwritten monuments have individual monographic and phototype editions.


Catalogues, Inventories, Publications

The content of the main part of the collection, without the new acquisitions, is organised in five volumes of Slavonic manuscripts, in an union catalogue of the Bulgarian manuscripts in Bulgaria and an inventory of the Greek and foreign language manuscripts, copies of which are available for use in the “Marin Drinov” reading room (reading room 1). Several inventories are to be completed: the inventory of fragments of Slavonic manuscripts, the new acquisitions inventory,of Volume VI of the Book of Slavonic Manuscripts (13th-19th centuries), as well as the revised and updated inventory of the Greek manuscripts (Volume I)and an inventory of the illuminated Slavonic manuscripts in the National library.Selected manuscripts from the collection are listed in exhibition catalogues. A representative part of the Slavonic and Greek manuscripts is included in the Digital Library.

All surrogate copies are catalogued in the card indexes of the Specialised Reading Room.



The Collections are managed by the Manuscripts and Old Printed Books Department. The employees of the department can offer specialised information. In order to protect the collections, access to the surrogate copies of manuscripts takes place after justifying the need to consult the original. Readers may request to make surrogate copies of documents from the collections by filling in a relevant form in accordance with the rules in force in the Library – the User Service Rules and the Price list of Services.

Business hours of the Department: Monday-Friday, 09.00-12.00 and 12.30-17.30.

The manuscripts are available for use only in the Specialised Reading Room No 1 with business hours:

Monday-Friday, from 8.30 to 18.00, Saturday from 9.00 to 15.00.

Manuscripts and microfilms are available for use every day from 9.00 to 15:30

On Saturday, manuscripts are not available for use.

Some of the manuscripts in the collection are also available via the Digital Library.