Long long ago, in the V century, Mesrope Mashtots invented the Armenian alphabet, which became one of the symbols of the state. At the same time, this illuminator began to work on the collection and storage of various manuscripts. The work was going well thanks to assistance of his students and relations with scientists from the Middle East. It was the beginning of the history of Matenadaran, the largest repository of manuscripts in Armenia, located inside the Echmiadzin monastery.
As far back as in the end of XIX century, the number of manuscripts just exceeded 3000 pieces, and today there are more than 17,000 manuscripts and more than 100,000 various historical records and documents. Among them 13,000 manuscripts are written in the Armenian language, and more than 2 thousand are in Arabic, Greek, Persian, Russian and even Japanese. All this collection reflects not only the history and culture of Armenia, but also other nations of the Caucasus and the Middle East.
In 1920, the available collection of Echmiadzin monastery was nationalized and in 1929 it was declared as the state property. Ten years later, in 1939 it moved to Yerevan. And 20 years later, on March 1, 1959, the Institute of Matenadaran was opened. It is located in a building designed by architect Mark Grigoryan. At the façade of the building there is the monument to Mesrope Mashtots, who was the founder of the Armenian language and this repository.
Generally the collection of museum can be divided into two parts: the manuscripts of V-XVIII centuries, and ancient books of XVI-XVIII centuries, including works of historians, philosophers, mathematicians, geographers as well as translations to Armenian language of works, written by ancient Greek, Arabic and Latin scholars. Matenadaran is also the museum of book’s painting, which often presented not only in books but in different manuscripts too. Here you can also see the works of masters, who decorated books, made jewelry artworks for covers, engraved items, stamping on leather, and more.
The storage facility is located on the ground floor and exhibition halls, reading room and card files occupy upper floors. However, only a small part of the manuscripts and miniatures is represented for public survey. The largest part of the archive is studied in the laboratory. Displayed manuscripts explain the development of the Armenian alphabet and reveal the many episodes of the history of the state. The "Lazarevskoye gospel» of IX century, "Echmiadzin gospel” of X century and "The Gospel Mughni» of XI century are works of particular value.
It is also worth to mention that since 1940 researchers of Matenadaran issues the collection "Vestnik of Matenadaran”, which contains the information about research of manuscripts and books, stored here. Matenadaran is the real treasure of the Armenian nation, which keeps a history and features of the Caucasus nation. The Armenian culture would be much poorer without this museum.