Only Writings Sound
An exhibit entitled Only Writings Sound, dedicated to the 150th anniversary of the birth of Academician Nikolay Petrovich Likhachev, opened on April 20th, 2012 at the State Hermitage Museum. His name is well-known to all specialists in the humanities. In addition to a world-famous scientist, paleographer and epigrapher, a famous specialist in diplomacy, codicology, textual studies and sphragistics, a bibliophile and expert on icons, he was also a very important collector. The unique Likhachevís collection first came together in the first decades of the 20th century, which received the official name of the Museum of Paleography in 1925. The museum founderís main idea was to use concrete artifacts to show the development of writing systems from ancient times to the beginning of the 20th century. The museumís holdings included more than 80 thousand items. In 1930, Likhachev was repressed and, in a few years (when the scientist was already dead) his museum was dissolved. The materials from the collection were transferred to various institutions, including the Hermitage, where they are preserved to this day.
In order to give the memory of this outstanding scientist its due, it was decided to create an exhibit to reunite the most interesting and representative artifacts from the Likhachevís collection in one place, even if only temporarily. The main goal of this exhibit is to illustrate the primary stages of the development of writing, present various types of writing on soft and hard materials, and show various types of documents: official, ecclesiastical and private.
The exposition includes 460 items. They include: cuneiform tablets from Mesopotamia, Ancient Egyptian inscriptions on stone; artifacts from Ancient Greece and Rome; papyruses; Byzantine, Ancient Russian, Syrian, Western medieval manuscripts and documents, Arabic headstones, ephemeral publications from Russia and Western Europe, documents from Iran and Turkey in the 15th-19th centuries, stamps, coins, autographs, incunabula and much more. All of this material is divided into four large categories: "The Origins of Writing. Writing in the Ancient World," "The Documents and Writings of the Middle Ages and the Renaissance," "The Documents of the Modern Age in Russia and Western Europe," "Written Artifacts of the East in the Middle Ages and Modern Age." The chronological parameters of the exhibit stretch from the turn of the 4th and 3rd millennia B.C.E. to the 20th century C.E., i.e. almost five thousand years. The exhibit is complemented by a memorial section, including documents from the scientistís huge personal archive.
A catalogue has been prepared for the exhibit, which includes descriptions and extensive commentary on all the items at the exhibit, introductory articles on the life and work of N.P. Likhachev, his activities as a collector and the history of the Museum of Paleography, and (as an attachment) a list of those antiquarians, collectors and scientists with whom Likhachev had personal and business relationships.
The exhibit and catalogue were prepared by the employees of the State
Hermitage Museum, in cooperation with the St. Petersburg Institute for
History of the Russian Academy of Sciences, the Saint Petersburg Branch
of the Archive of the Russian Academy of Sciences, the Institute of Oriental
Manuscripts of the Russian Academy of Sciences and the Library of the
Russian Academy of Sciences. The Curator of the exhibit is Elena Vladimirovna
Stepanova, head academic associate of the Oriental Department of the State