During the centuries of its existence, the Monastery has gathered a unique and extremely rich collection of manuscripts, archives, printed books and icons. It includes in a single whole about 1,100 manuscripts (Slavonic, Greek, Moldovan-Wallachian, etc.), over 1,000 medieval and early modern (pre-Revival) charters and documents (Bulgarian, Greek, Moldovan- Wallachian, Ottoman and Russian), a huge archive from the Revival and post-Revival period (over 100,000 archival items), as well as over 30,000 books, including hundreds of rare old printed editions, which are not available in any Bulgarian library. The portable icons are over 1,000.
If the preserved earlier literary monuments in the Monastery are mainly of a liturgical nature, from later periods have reached historical works such as the Chronicle of the Byzantine historian Joannes Zonaras in a Slavonic translation of 1433. In the years when the Ottoman rule was already firmly established in the Balkans, the whole of Mount Athos, in particular the Holy Monastery of Zograf became the repositories of the history of the Balkan nations. In 1762, in the Monastery of Zograf, the Monk Paisiy of Hilendar completed his work Istoriya Slavyanobolgarskaya (lit. ‘Slavic-Bulgarian History’), a draft of which is still kept in the Monastery library. Paisiy’s work is not the only attempt to describe Bulgarian history. From under the pen of an unknown monk of Zograf also came a “Short history of the Bulgarian Slavic people,” also known as “Zograf’s History of Bulgaria,” which came down to us from a manual copy done by monk Jacob in 1785.
Today there are little more than ten original documents from the office of the medieval Bulgarian kings. Three of them are found in the archives of Mount Athos: the golden bull (chrysobull) of Tsar Ivan Alexander from 1342 (also known as Zograf Charter) and the Vitosha Charter of Tsar Ivan Shishman (in the Zograf Monastery), and the Vatopedi Charter of Tsar Ivan Asen II (in the Vatopedi Monastery). In addition to these, the Monastery’s archive contains several other medieval Slavonic charters translated from Greek documents or later compilations of old monastic documents (John Kaliman’s charter and the Composite Charter of the Zograf Monastery). There are over 60 Byzantine documents, among them many issued by the Byzantine emperors and the Patriarchs of Constantinople, relating to the medieval history of the Balkans.
The literary monuments preserved today do not give a complete picture of the former state of the Monastery’s archive and library. Some of the manuscripts were destroyed or lost in the Middle Ages or during the Ottoman rule. The Life of the Holy Twenty-six Monastic Martyrs of Zograf says that, “the tower and the church were burned completely together with 193 books, the liturgical vestments and the golden epitrachelions, the multi coloured curtains and all the liturgical vessels that had been left by the pious of eternal memory kings - namely, by St. Peter, by the great John Asen (II) and by Simeon.” Other monuments of the Zograf Monastery today are in other sites due to historical circumstances. One of them is the Codex Zographensis (10th century), which today is in the Russian National Library in St. Petersburg.
Compiled by: Georgi Mitov