Cultural life in Russia in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries differed from cultural life in Western Europe in two important respects. Works of literature and scholarship were not written in the spoken vernacular (Russian), but in Church Slavonic, and the predominant medium for conveying thought was not the printed book, but the manuscript. Printing, which began late-the first explicitly dated Moscow imprint being that of Ivan Fedorov's Apostol (Acts and Epistles) of 1564-was dominated by Church and State and was reserved in the main for the production of generally large-format liturgical works for use in Orthodox Church services. The first printed and dated East Slavonic primer did not appear until 1574. It was a primer for children learning to read not Ukrainian or Russian, but Church Slavonic, and it was printed not within the State of Muscovy, but in Lvov, then in Poland (but now in the Ukrainian SSR). It is the recent acquisition by the British Library of a copy of this significant and rare work (hitherto known only from a copy at Harvard) that has caused this article to be written.
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