by Viktor MOLCHANOV, Dr. Sc. (Hist.), MS Department, Russian State Library, Moscow
Russia's State Chancellor Rumyantsev (1754-1826) was at the beginning of the Russian State Library with its stock known far and wide. His collection was first mentioned in the 1780s. Up to his dying day Count Rumyantsev persevered in his activities as a collector of ancient manuscripts, books and other printed publications that saw light both here in this country and abroad. He collected rare coins and medals, minerals, sculptures, paintings and ethnographic materials, a focal point of this country's major cultural centers.
Nikolai Rumyantsev as portrayed by George Dawe. 1827.
His life story is that of great involvement and dedication where books and other cultural values were concerned. Thanks to his deep love of learning, Count Rumyantsev succeeded everywhere apart from his official pursuits. As a statesman, he was in for all possible top honors and kudos. As a courtier, he climbed up all the steps of the ladder, from gentleman's of the bedchamber to oberhofmeister's*. A brilliant diplomat, he first served as an ambassador extraordinary and then as Foreign Minister and State Chancellor. Count Rumyantsev was the first chairman of Russia's State Council.
An outstanding statesman and diplomat, Count Rumyantsev was also an expert publisher, one of the first in Europe to publish MS documents (Russia's official deeds and agreements dating anno 1229 through 1696). Furthermore, he was the originator of the glorious tradition by turning over his unique collection of manuscripts (12th to early 19th cent.), printed publications and museum valuables to state custody. His collections formed Russia's first museum bearing the giver's name.
* In keeping with the Table of Ranks of 1722, gentleman of the bedchamber was the lowest rank at the court. Oberhofmeister (steward of the household) was the highest rank in char ... Read more