52 Weeks of Fantastic Bindings, Week 44: contemporary binding of the Ostrog Bible (1581)
This week’s binding post is one of the true treasures of the Rare Books collection here at St Andrews: the first edition of the Ostrog Bible. The Ostrog Bible is the first edition of the Bible printed in Slavonic and in Cyrillic characters. It was produced in 1581 by Ivan Fedorov (his last known work) under the auspices of Konstantin, Prince of Ostrog. Konstantin had previously obtained a manuscript copy of the Bible of Gennadius from Moscow from which this first printed edition was made. The Ostrog Bible is a monumental publication over 600 leaves, with beautifully decorated headpieces and initials, which were prepared especially for it. This Bible was printed in an edition of around 1500, and there only a handful known to exist in the UK (Oxford, Cambridge, British Library).
Its scarcity is only part of the treasure of this book: the St Andrews copy still retains its original binding, probably from Ostroh. It has been bound in contemporary calf on boards, with blind fillets around edges of both boards. The front board features a panel stamp of the crucifixion, title and ornamental cornerpieces stamped in gold within ornamental blind rolled borders. The back board has an ornamental medallion stamped in gold within blind rolled borders. There is also evidence of two clasps (nail holes remain) and the fore-edges have been sprinkled blue. This is, to my knowledge, the earliest and possibly the only example of Ukrainian binding in our collections.