PLATON, later Metropolitan of Moscow. Pravoslavnoe uchenie ili sokhrashchennaia khristianskaia bogosloviia, dlia Ego Imperatorskago Vysochestva … blagovernago gosudaria tsesarevicha i velikago kniazia Pavla Petrovich; sochinennaia Ego Imperatorskago Vysochestva uchitelem Ieromonakh Platonom 1765 goda. [Orthodox Teaching, or Christian theology abridged, for His Imperial Highness … the true-believing lord Tsesarevich and Grand Duke Pavel Petrovich; written by His Imperial Highness’s teacher Hieromonk Platon in 1765].
V Sanktpeterburge pri Imperatorskoi Akademii Nauk.  [1765.]
4to (235 × 178 mm), pp. [24], 173, [1]; a few inkspots to p. 65, occasional light marginal staining elsewhere; faint ms. ink ownership inscription to title , and rear free endpaper; overall a very good copy, with generous margins, in contemporary mottled calf, a little dry, extremities rubbed, some insect damage to the spine, affecting lower joint at foot and upper joint at head.
First edition, printed in only 800 copies: the catechism of Russian Orthodoxy which arose out of the lessons given to Catherine the Great’s nine-year-old son, Paul, in 1763–5. All early editions are extremely rare.

The author, Platon (1737–1812), was one of the great hierarchs of the eighteenth century. A master of rhetoric and a prolific writer (over 500 of his sermons alone are preserved), he became a highly-regarded figure in Western Europe thanks to the present work, which was translated into Latin, French, German, English (The Orthodox Doctrine of the Apostolic Eastern Church, 1857), and Greek. Dostoevsky refers to Platon’s discussions with Diderot over the existence of God in The Brothers Karamazov.

Platon was barely 25 when Catherine, impressed by his intellect, appointed him as teacher of religion to the heir to the throne. The lessons, which took place three times a week at the Winter Palace, lasted for two years, by which time the basics of the catechism had been covered and the classes became less frequent. ‘But they seem to have had a lasting effect and to have imbued the future Emperor with a degree of sincere religious belief far in excess to what can be perceived in his mother’ (Papmehl, p. 11).

Platon’s rise through the ecclesiastical ranks was assured. In 1766, the young hieromonk became Archimandrite of the Lavra of the Holy Trinity and St Sergius in Sergiev Posad (i.e. abbot of the most prominent monastery in Russia); in 1770, Archbishop of Tver; in 1787, Metropolitan of Moscow.

Bitovt 1540; Sopikov 2275 (‘rare’); Svodnyi katalog 5361. This edition not in WorldCat, which locates four eighteenth-century editions, most in single copies only. On Platon, see K. A. Papmehl, Metropolitan Platon of Moscow (Petr Levshin, 1737–1812): the Enlightened Prelate, Scholar and Educator (1983).
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