An Exhibition for the 14th Colloquium of the
International Academy of Heraldry. The Heraldic Book in the Hermitage
The exhibition in the foyer of the Hermitage Theatre coincides with the opening of the 14th International Colloquium on Heraldry. It displays more than 70 books dating from the 16th - 20th centuries and dealing with Russian and Western European heraldry.
Heraldry is the system of signs showing the social status of individuals or groups and serves as an outward distinction. It emerged in ancient times and spread over time across all cultural regions. At the same time the term “heraldry” served as a designation of a scholarly discipline: the study of such signs as banners, awards, uniforms.
At present the Hermitage is closely linked to the activity of the newly reborn heraldic service of Russia which was reorganized in the Heraldry Council under the President of the Russian Federation. In 1997 the State Hermitage, together with other museums, was entrusted by the Russian President with the task of organizing a grandiose exhibition devoted to the 500th anniversary of the Russian State Coat of Arms. In 2004 the Hermitage opened a new division, the Museum of Heraldry, in the Konstantinovsky Palace in Strelna.
The Research Library of the State Hermitage contains an important collection of books on heraldry. The most interesting and significant works, as well as rare editions are displayed in the exhibition. They bear the ex libris of Nicholas II, the Imperial Hermitage Library, the Counts Stroganov, Prince A.B. Lobanov-Rostovsky, V.F. Levinson-Lessing, and Karl Faberge. Other books come from the library of B.V. Koene, an archeologist, numismatist and heraldry expert who was curator of the Numismatic Division of the Hermitage beginning in 1844. Several books were presented by G.V. Vilinbakhov from his personal collection.
Works on heraldry from Italy, Sweden, France, Poland, England and Spain published in the 16th - 20th centuries are collected in the section on European countries. Among these books one should mention two fully engraved heraldic publications from the 16th century, the Solis Virgilius, 1514-1562, by a Nuremberg engraver and painter. The German books on heraldry (Wappenbuch) present a separate group of handbooks on the way coats of arms were created. Among them we find a volume by Hans Siebmacher, (?-1611) which has more than 5700 coats of arms and set the standard for German heraldry in the 16th century. The exhibition also presents a book by John Guillim, entitled A Display of Heraldry (1679, London). Here for the first time there was the treatise by John Logan with hundreds of engraved coats of arms and portraits, some of which were done from drawings by Van Dyck.
The uniqueness of the publications from the 16th and 17th centuries is heightened by the fact that many of the coats of arms they present have been painted by hand. In the Paris publication entitled Catalogue des tres illustres ducs et connestables de France (1555) both the coats of arms and the initials are painted by hand.
The exhibition presents an investigation into genealogy: the German text Genealogia (1556). There is also a description of the nobility of Spain from 1736 and the 3rd volume of Famiglie celebri di Italia by Count Pompeo Litta (1781-1852).
Another publications of special interest is one of the first Swedish books of heraldry, the Wapn-bok (1781, Stockholm).
The collection of books on Russian heraldry is represented by rare and classical copies of 18th and 19th century publications. Among these are the Full Collection of the Laws of the Russian Empire (1844, St Petersburg), A General Heraldry Book of the Noble Families of the Russian Empire (1809), the Russian Heraldic Dictionary (1912) and About the Art of Heraldry in Russia.
At the start of the 20th century there worked in the Hermitage one of the best known heraldry experts of the day, S.N. Troinitsky. He was the first post-revolutionary director of the Hermitage and his name is linked with numerous works on heraldry: the Heraldry Book of Anisim Titovich Knyazev, 1785; the Coats of Arms of the Company of Life Guards, Senior and Junior Officers and Soliers; the Coats of Arms of the Commander and Officers of the Brig Mercury; the creation of indexes to Russian coats of arms and mottos; and the Coats of Arms of the Yusupov and Urusov Princes; as well as the journal Gerboved (The Heraldry Master) which he published during 1913-1914. These are displayed in the exhibition.
Among the publications devoted to Russian heraldry the manuscript Titulyarnik (Guide to Titles), 1762, compiled in the reign of Tsar Alexei Mikhailovich. It one of only three copies extant.
There is an illustrated catalogue of the exhibition entitled The Heraldic Book in the Hermitage, published by Slavia. The curators of the exhibition are G.V. Vilinbakhov, deputy director of the State Hermitage for scholarly work and Chairman of the Heraldry Council under the RF President; and G.V. Dorofeeva and E.V. Platonov, curators of the Cabinet of Rare Books in the Research Library of the State Hermitage.