{Armenia} “Matenadaran” – Ancient Manuscript Museum

October 29, 2012


So, 4 days in Armenia, 8 wonderful museums. I thought I would start with Matenadaran, which means “depository of manuscripts” in Armenian, and had to be the obvious choice to host a conference on museums and written communication. It holds one of the world’s richest collection of medieval manuscripts and books. Subjects span a broad range, from history, philosophy and art to geography, cosmography and medicine, not only in Armenian but also in many other languages.

The collection holds about 17,000 manuscripts, including 2,500 illuminated Armenian manuscripts, and 30,000 other documents though, as in most museums – not all of the collections are on display. The first hall focuses on Armenian material, with a large selection of gospels and holy scripts. Highlights include a petrified manuscript found in a cave in the 19th century, and a 6th century gospel of Echmaidzin – Armenia’s historical holy capital and spiritual stronghold – with an intricate ivory binding. Other bindings, e.g. leather and silver, are also on display, and there’s a small display introducing the restoration of manuscripts.

The second hall exhibits a selection of manuscripts in other languages, such as Afghan, Russian, Ottoman Turkish or Persion. Examples of the wide variety of manuscripts and books on display include a Persian dictionary and an early 19th century calendar from the Ottoman Empire (see below).The final two rooms display a selection of ancient maps – some of which are reproductions for display – such as the first printed map in Armenian from 1695 or a map of the world, planets and zodiac according to Ptolemy from the 1st-2nd century AD, and an interesting little exhibit about plants and minerals used to create the inks and paints used in the illumination of manuscripts.

The large statue outside the front of the museum, by the way, is Mesrop Mashots, the creator of the Armenian alphabet, which he can be seen pointing to. Up until 405, when the alphabet was introduced, Armenian had only been a dialect with no written script. An interesting fact we learned is, that each letter of the alphabet also has numerical value.


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4 Responses to “{Armenia} “Matenadaran” – Ancient Manuscript Museum”

  1. Emma Says:

    I love your blog Jenni – it gives me the chance to discover museums that I’d probably never otherwise see. I’m also keeping an eye on the Museum Cafe series – great idea. Emma (BYW)


  2. Margaret Hogan Says:

    What a great site you’ve got going here. I’ve already sent the link to a museum-mad friend of mine. What can I offer you from our part of the world? What about the Australian Fossil & MIneral Museum. A lifetime’s collection put together by Professor Warren Somerville and donated to Bathurst. The little museum is house in the original Bathurst Public School building and the interior is incredible. It even has it’s own T-rex. Here’s the link…http://www.somervillecollection.com.au/
    I might have to go down with the camera myself one day :)
    All the best.
    Margaret (BYW)


    • jennifuchs Says:

      Hi Margaret, thanks for visiting Museum diary and for your lovely comment. I’ve never been to Australia, but hope to visit one day and always interested to hear about new museums so thanks for the link. Best wishes, Jenni


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