The Decalogue. The Ten Commandments
The exhibition in the Church Anteroom of the Winter Palace (Room 270) was prepared by the museum jointly with the Rare Book of St Petersburg Publishing House. Every book issued by the publishing house of Peter Suspitsyn is an experiment to one extent or another. The Decalogue, which is the result of many years of work, is no exception. Most likely this is the first separate publication of one of the most famous fragments of the Old Testament (Exodus. 20:2-17).
According to the Bible story, on Mt Sinai (Horiv) on the 50th day after the exodus of the Hebrews from Egypt the Lord delivered His law in the Ten Commandments to the Israelite nation headed by Moses. The first four commandments bear the character of religious laws, while the rest reflect universal ethical norms. At various times and in various confessional traditions the numbering of the commandments do not coincide. Originally the commandments were written on two stone tablets and placed in the ark of the Testament.
In the book, just as in the original Hebrew text, the Decalogue is given without division into separate sections.
The artist Mikhail Kopylkov has presented tablets consisting of ten sheepskin parchment sheets (corresponding to the number of commandments). In the center of the face side of each page there is a plate of bone porcelain in the shape of matzo on which a commandment written in ancient Hebrew has been set using the technique of overglaze decal (highly resistant image using special paints on a basis of metal salts that is then fired).
The original texts are accompanied by translations into seven languages: Greek, Latin, Russian, English, German, French and Spanish. The translations are printed on paper made by hand on an old press dating from the 19th century.
The book’s binding is decorated with a bronze relief depicting tablets
of the Old Testament on the background of a layer of matzo.
The authors of the project directed their efforts at making the entire design of the publication, its color, and the texture of materials used recreate the historical coloring and spirit of Genesis - the time when the Ten Commandments first appeared to mankind.
Copy N 1 is intended as a gift to the State Hermitage.
An exhibition catalogue entitled The Decalogue. The Ten Commandments has been prepared by the State Hermitage and the Rare Book of St Petersburg Publishing House. Introductory remarks to the catalogue were written by Director of the State Hermitage Mikhail Piotrovsky. The authors of the articles are the Director of the Center of Biblical Studies and Judaica within the Philosophy Department of the St Petersburg State University I.R. Tantlevsky; Research Staff member of the St Petersburg Branch of the Institute of Oriental Studies, Russian Academy of Sciences, S.M. Yakerson; and man of letters G.I. Kapelian.
The Rare Book of St Petersburg Publishing House was founded in 1991. Its goal has been the rebirth of an art that disappeared in Russia: handmade books for bibliophiles, books which are created as works of art. The press run of their publications goes from one copy on upwards to as many as 25. Books from this publishing house are to be found in the collections of the State Hermitage, in the Cabinet of Engravings in Berlin, in the British Museum and the Victoria & Albert Museum in London, as well as in the Peterhof State Museum-Preserve, in the Russian National Library, the Bavarian National Library in Munich, and the Public Library in New York.