The manuscript consists of a total of eight parts – three whole folia of approximately 150 x 270 mm in size, several folia snippets and two imprints of letters in lines on the wooden cover of a Cyrillic manuscript from the Rila Monastery. The sheets and snippets were found at different times and were subsequently identified as parts of the same large codex containing an Old Bulgarian translation of the Parenesis book. In spelling and handwriting, the Rila Glagolitic Folia are closest to the Evangelium Assemani, Euchologium Sinaiticum, Codex Marianus and Evangelium Achridanum.
The first two folia (I and II) representing one badly damaged fragment and one whole folio (also known as the Macedonian Glagolitic Folio), were discovered in 1845 by Russian traveller and scientist Victor I. Grigorovich in the cover of a Cyrillic manuscript from the library of the Rila Monastery. In 1880, while working at the monastery library, Czech historian Konstantin Jirecek found three more folia (IV, VI and VIII) used as waste paper in the binding of Vladislav the Grammarian’s Andrianti collection from 1473. The remaining folia (III, V and VII) Prof Yordan Ivanov discovered in 1936 in the cover of the same collection during his visit to the monastery with students from Sofia University. The folia found by Grigorovich are kept in the Library of the Russian Academy of Sciences in St Petersburg (Signature 24.4.15), while the remaining ones are in the Library of the Rila Monastery (Signature 3/6 (14)).
After the first editions of the early findings made by I. Sreznevsky (1866, 1867), V. Jagic (1882) and G. A. Ilinsky (1909), a complete study and publication of all the papers was made by Ivan Goshev (1956). Goshev managed to read and identify most of the text preserved on the fragments. According to him, folio I contained part of the sermon За покаянието [Sermon for repentance] by Ephrem the Syrian; folio II (Macedonian Glagolitic Folio) has preserved the end of the 78th sermon from the Parenesis by St Ephrem the Syrian За съда, за любовта и за покаянието [On judgment, love and repentance] and the beginning of the next 79th one, За възвръщането назад към езическите дела [On the return to pagan rituals]. On folio III – a small snippet used in the cover of Vladislav the Grammarian’s collection, there were traces of the title of the 80th sermon from the Parenesis, За божествената просфора и за комкането [On the Divine Prosphora and the Holly Communion]. On folio IV one could see traces of the sermon За Антихриста [On the Antichrist] of Ephrem the Syrian. Folias V and VI were badly damaged, and according to Goshev contained the text of the sermon За любовта, за кръщението, за изповедта, похвала на кръста и за бъдещия съд [On love, baptism, confession, ecnomium of the cross, and on the judgment to come], which has no established Greek parallel. Folia VII and VIII, on which only small parts are readable, contained the text of an unknown prayer of repentance.
Although small in volume, the monument attests to a rich and varied vocabulary, and its content lead to the conclusion that it was part of a liturgical manuscript designated for Lent. As researchers maintain, the text of the prayer to the Holy Trinity, which preserves an archaic translation, not identified in later transcripts, is of particular interest. The Rila Glagolitic Folia are evidence that Ephrem the Syrian’s Parenesis was known to Old Bulgarian writers from the era of the First Bulgarian Tsardom and might have been used by them in some of the original works that originated at that time.
The Parenesis had been very popular among the Slavs during the Middle Ages and has been copies many times (Bulgarian, Serbian, Vlach-Moldovan, Russian manuscripts from the 13th-16th centuries). One of the oldest Russian manuscripts dates from the 13th century and is kept at the Russian National Library in St Petersburg, No 71a, Collection of M. P. Pogodin. It was published as a major transcript in the five-volume scientific edition of G. Bojkovsky (Bojkovsky, G. Paraenesis. Die altbulgarische Übersetzung von Werken Ephraims des Syrers. Фрайбург, 1984–1990). Irina Ogren cast additional light on the Russian tradition (Паренесис Ефрема Сирина. К истории славянского перевода. Uppsala, 1989). A thorough analysis of the language of the text in its transmission was published by C. Voss (Die Paränesis Ephraims des Syrers in südslavischen Handschriften des 14.–16. Jahrhunderts. Zur Lexik der altbulgarischen Erstübersetzung und ihrer Überlieferung (MonumentaLinguae Slavicae Dialecti Veteris. Fontes et dissertationes, XXXVIII, Freiburg 1997) and by O. F. Zholobov (Корпус древнерусских списков Паренесиса Ефрема Сирина. II: РНБ, Погод. 71а. – Russian Linguistics International Journal for the Study of Russian and other Slavic Languages. 2009. 33, 37–64).
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