Re-Bound Book Covers from the Island of Piirissaar, Estonia

Alar Läänelaid, Tomasz Ważny


Old Believers’ service books from the Piirissaar house of prayer in Estonia were rescued from a fire and the damaged oak boards of the wooden covers of one of the books were dendrochronologically dated back to AD 1353. The dendrochronological reference shows that the oak wood originates from East Pomerania-Gdansk region. The intriguing fact is that the book was not printed until 1879 in Moscow. The seemingly contradictory dates and locations can be explained by the adventurous history of the Old Believers sects in Russia. The Old Believers were suppressed during the Russian Orthodox Church reforms between 1652 and 1666 and many of them escaped to remote marginal areas of the empire or emigrated, e.g. to Rzeczpospolita. Due to lively communication between the Old Believers’ congregations, their literature moved from country to country. In this case, a newer book of the Old Believers was bound with old wooden covers from Poland.


Wooden Covers; Dendrochronology; Old Believers; Book History

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ISSN 1736-8812 (print)
ISSN 2346-5581 (online)