The Russian Graphosphere: The Perspective of a British Scholar

Keywords: history of the Russian system of writing, Russian graphosphere, writing technologies, visual aspect


This review examines The Russian Graphosphere, 1450–1850 (2020) by Simon Franklin, a well-known British specialist in Byzantine and mediaeval Russian history. The book is an authorised Russian translation; the original was published in English a year before. The book contains a reference guide to different types of Russian writing over a period of four hundred years, starting from the mid-fifteenth century. In the book, an overview is followed by a series of case studies on controversial issues dealing with the writing technology that was applied in a particular case. The author focuses his attention on the visual aspect of the writings, their functions, and their interaction as a set of visible words. Franklin considers the written sources a system of visually distinguishable signals and calls the system a graphosphere. The graphosphere is described in its dynamics and correlated with the development of society and culture. The reviewer regards the monograph as an outstanding academic work that opens new paths for future historical research. However, he also expresses regret that the history of the Russian graphosphere, which can be seen as a special phenomenon, is partly lost in the book against the background of identical processes that took place around Europe.

Author Biography

Dmitrii Bulanin

Dr. Hab. (Philology), Chief Researcher, Institute of Russian Literature (Pushkin House) of the Russian Academy of Sciences; V. V. Vinogradov Russian Language Institute of the Russian Academy of Sciences.

4, Makarov Embankment, 199034, St Petersburg, Russia.

18/2, Volkhonka Str., 119019, Moscow, Russia.

ORCID 0000-0002-5480-7964


Bulanin, D. M. (2010). Traditsii i novatsii v interpretatsii russkoi pis’mennoi kul’tury pervykh vekov: Zametki k perevodu knigi S. Franklina “Pis’mennost’, obshchestvo i kul’tura v Drevnei Rusi (okolo 950–1300 gg.)” [Traditions and Innovations in the Interpretation of the Russian Written Culture of the First Centuries: Notes to the Translation of S. Franklin’s Writing, Society and Culture in Ancient Russia (c. 950–1300)]. St Petersburg, Dmitrii Bulanin. 72 p.

Franklin, S. (2020). Russkaya grafosfera, 1450–1850 [The Russian Graphosphere, 1450–1850] / transl. by T. V. Kovalevskaya. St Petersburg, Dmitrii Bulanin. 568 p.

Franklin, S. (2010). Pis’mennost’, obshchestvo i kul’tura v Drevnei Rusi (okolo 950–1300 gg.) [Writing, Society and Culture in Early Rus', c. 950–1300]. St Petersburg, Dmitrii Bulanin. 552 p.

Franklin, S., Shepard, D. (2000). Nachalo Rusi, 750–1200 [The Emergence of Russia, 750–1200]. St Petersburg, Dmitrii Bulanin. 624 p.

Panchenko, A. M. (2000). Russkii poet, ili Mirskaya svyatost’ kak religiozno-kul’turnaya problema [The Russian Poet, or Worldly Saintliness as a Religious and Cultural Problem]. In Panchenko, A. M. O russkoi istorii i kul’ture. St Petersburg, Azbuka, pp. 303–318.

Rozanov, V. V. (1995). A. S. Pushkin [A. S. Pushkin]. In Rozanov, V. V. Sobranie sochinenii v 30 t. Moscow, Respublika. Vol. 4. O pisatel’stve i pisatelyakh, pp. 36–47.

How to Cite
Bulanin, D. (2022). The Russian Graphosphere: The Perspective of a British Scholar. Quaestio Rossica, 10(1), 355–364.
Controversiae et recensiones