Cookies Policy

This site uses cookies. By continuing to browse the site you are agreeing to our use of cookies.

I accept this policy

Find out more here

Three “Hands” and Literacy in Muscovy during the Reign of Ivan IV

No metrics data to plot.
The attempt to load metrics for this article has failed.
The attempt to plot a graph for these metrics has failed.
The full text of this article is not currently available.

Brill’s MyBook program is exclusively available on BrillOnline Books and Journals. Students and scholars affiliated with an institution that has purchased a Brill E-Book on the BrillOnline platform automatically have access to the MyBook option for the title(s) acquired by the Library. Brill MyBook is a print-on-demand paperback copy which is sold at a favorably uniform low price.

Access this article

+ Tax (if applicable)
Add to Favorites
You must be logged in to use this functionality

“I Affix My Hand,” “By My Own Hand,” and “My Man’s Hand”

image of Canadian-American Slavic Studies

Some recent historians dissent from the widespread opinion that Muscovite society during the reign of Ivan IV was overwhelmingly illiterate. This article adduces three types of evidence that more optimistic assessments of the extent of literacy are nearer the truth. Analysis of the use of the terms “to know letters” and “to affix one’s hand” and explanations of why principals or witnesses to a legal transaction did not “affix their hands” demonstrate conclusively that they meant to be literate and write their signature on a document. Therefore, signatures prove practical literacy. Documents written by a non-scribe principal demonstrate an even higher level of literacy. The absence of documents handwritten by boyars reflects not boyar illiteracy, but boyar snobbism, facilitated in part by use of personal slave/servant “writers” to handwrite their charters. Literacy in Ivan’s Muscovy was more widespread among the elite than pessimistic assessments allow.

Affiliations: 1:


Full text loading...


Data & Media loading...

Article metrics loading...



Can't access your account?
  • Tools

  • Add to Favorites
  • Printable version
  • Email this page
  • Subscribe to ToC alert
  • Get permissions
  • Recommend to your library

    You must fill out fields marked with: *

    Librarian details
    Your details
    Why are you recommending this title?
    Select reason:
    Canadian-American Slavic Studies — Recommend this title to your library
  • Export citations
  • Key

  • Full access
  • Open Access
  • Partial/No accessInformation