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


  • Alar Läänelaid
  • Tomasz Ważny



Wooden Covers, Dendrochronology, Old Believers, Book History


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.


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Author Biographies

Alar Läänelaid

Dr. Alar Läänelaid (b. 1951) is Associate Professor in Landscape Ecology at the University of Tartu, Estonia. He has dendrochronologically dated a number of architectural objects, as well as painting panels and sculptures.

Tomasz Ważny

Dr. Tomasz Ważny (b. 1957) is Associate Research Professor of Laboratory of Tree-Ring Research at the University of Arizona in the U.S., and a Faculty Member of the Faculty of Fine Arts at Nicolaus Copernicus University in Torun, Poland. He has dendrochronologically dated many archaeological and architectural objects and art objects in Poland, Central Europe and the Mediterranean area.