Rare books from ancient family

Digital version of Sapegis’ family library presented in Ruzhany

By Felix Mironovsky

The ancient town of Ruzhany in the Pruzhany District has brought together experts on book rarities from Belarus, Russia and Lithuania. The restored annex at Ruzhany Palace Estate, which once served as a residence for the ancient family of Sapegi, has hosted the launch of a CD listing the bibliography of the family library. The latter was collected by Lev Sapega, Hetman of the Grand Duchy of Lithuania, and his sons. Digital variants of the most precious books were also on display.

The collection includes 250 books from the family estate at Koden, now located over the Polish border. In line with the will of the Hetman’s son, these were later donated to the University in Vilno (later, the capital of Lithuania). The books, collected by representatives of the Sapegi family, are kept in national libraries in Russia, Sweden, Poland and the USA. According to Tamara Danilyuk, Director of Brest’s Maxim Gorky Regional Library, none of these rarities remains in Belarus.

In 2008, library employees organised the international Berestie Book Collections: Problems and Prospects conference in Brest, inviting their colleagues from St. Petersburg, Vilnius and Warsaw. As a result, the idea of electronic book editions appeared. This has been jointly implemented by the national libraries of Minsk and St. Petersburg and the regional library in Brest. The idea has been funded by the UNESCO Office in Moscow as part of the international Virtual Reconstruction of the Sapegis’ Family Library project.

The unique CD’s launch is a key moment of the Ruzhanskaya Brama (Ruzhany Gates) holiday, organised at the Belarusian ‘Versailles’ — as the Sapegi Palace in Ruzhany was known in the 18th century. The festival included an exhibition of various craft items, a concert of amateur and professional artistes and a round table discussion tackling how best to preserve the library and the architectural legacy of the Belarusian family. The Ruzhany holiday finished with a bright fireworks display.

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