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W. F. Ryan

Emeritus Professor and Honorary Fellow

Research Interests: History of the Russian language | History of Russian science and magic to 1800 | History of navigation and scientific instruments

MA DPhil FBA, FSA, Dr hon. causa, Russian Academy of Sciences


1976–2002 Academic Librarian, Warburg Institute, University of London.
1967– 76 Lecturer in Russian Language and Literature, School of Slavonic and East European Studies, University of London.
1965– 7 Assistant Curator, Museum of the History of Science, Oxford
1963– 5 Editor, Clarendon Press, Oxford: Oxford Russian– English Dictionary.



Annals of Science

Bookplate International

Birmingham Slavonic Monographs


Warburg Surveys and Texts

Warburg Studies and Texts

Warburg Colloquia

Hakluyt Society



Maimonides’ On Coitus, by Gerrit Bos, with Medieval Latin Translations by Charles Burnett and the Slavonic Translation by Will Ryan and Moshe Taube, Leiden, 2018. 

The Bathhouse at Midnight: An Historical Survey of Magic and Divination in Russia, Sutton (Stroud, England ) and Pennsylvania State University Press (University Park, Pennsylvania), 1999. 504 pp., 18 plates (hardback and paperback).

Jerusalem Pilgrimage 1099– 1185, ed. by John Wilkinson, Joyce Hill and W. F. Ryan, Hakluyt Society, London, 1988.

Penguin Russian Dictionary (with Peter Norman), London and New York, 1995 (hardback); 1996 (paperback).

Russian Magic at the British Library: Books, Manuscripts, Scholars, Travellers (The Panizzi Lectures 2005), British Library, London, 2006.

Bania v polnoch=. Istoricheskii obzor magii i gadanii v Rossii, NLO, Moscow, 2006.

BOOKS EDITED (other than as series editor)

Oxford Russian– English Dictionary, ed. M. Wheeler, general editors B. O. Unbegaun and W. F. Ryan, Oxford, 1972

Pseudo– Aristotle, The Secret of Secrets. Sources and Influences, ed. W. F. Ryan and Charles B. Schmitt, Warburg Institute Surveys IX, London, 1982.

Pseudo– Aristotle in the Middle Ages: The Theology and Other Texts, edited by Jill Kraye, W. F. Ryan and C. B. Schmitt, Warburg Institute Surveys and Texts XI, London, 1986, pp. 97– 109.

Union Catalogue of Cyrillic Manuscripts in British and Irish Collections, compiled by R. Cleminson, general editors Veronica Du Feu and W. F. Ryan, London, 1988.

Making Instruments Count: Essays on Historical Scientific Instruments presented to Gerard L'Estrange Turner, edited by R. G. W. Anderson, J. A. Bennett, W. F. Ryan, Aldershot, 1993. 

Britain and Russia in the Age of Peter the Great: Historical Documents, London 1998 (as joint editor, translator, typesetter).

Magic and the Classical Tradition, ed. Charles Burnett and W. F. Ryan, Warburg Institute Colloquia 7, London, 2005.

The Power of Words: Studies on Charms and Charming in Europe, ed. James Kapaló, Éva Pócs and William Ryan, Central European University Press, Budapest and New York, 2013

ARTICLES (in reverse chronological order)

‘Ivan the Terrible’s Malady and Its Magical Cure’, Incantatio, 2, 2012, pp. 23-32

‘W. R. S. Ralston and the Russian Folktale’, Folklore, 120, 2009, pp. 123-32.

‘Witchcraft and the Russian State’, in Hexenprozess und Staatsbildung, Verlag für Regionalgeschichte, Bielefeld, 2008, pp. 135-47.

‘Games, Pastimes and Magic in Russia’, Folklore, 119, 2008, pp. 1-13.

‘Slavonic Studies’, in A Century of British Medieval Studies, The British Academy, Oxford, 2007, pp. 283-300.

`Russia and the Magic of Cats' Solanus, n.s. 19, 2005, pp. 7-13.

'The Magic of the Law in Russia', in Forging a Common Destiny= Liber Amicorum in honour of William E. Butler, ed. Natalia Iu. Erpylova, Maryann. E. Gashi Butler, Jane E. Henderson, London, 2005, pp. 32-43.

Articles on .The Evil Eye, .Hand of Glory, .Amulets, .Witchcraft and Orthodoxy in Encyclopedia of Witchcraft, ABC-CLIO, 2005.

'Peter the Great's Magician' (essay review), Kritika, n.s., 6, 1, 2005, pp. 217-21.

`Peter I and English Maritime Technology', in Peter the Great and the West: New Perspectives, ed. Lindsey Hughes, Basingstoke and New York, 2001, p. 130-58.

'Magic and the Military in Russia', in Reflections on Russia in the Eighteenth Century, ed. Joachim Klein, Simon Dixon, Maarten Fraanje, Cologne etc., 2001, pp. 84-95.

'Abacus (Western)' (with Charles Burnett) in Instruments of Science: An Historical Encyclopedia, London 1998, pp. 5– 7.

'The Witchcraft Hysteria in Early Modern Europe: Was Russia an Exception?', The Slavonic and East European Review, 76, 1, 1998, pp. 1– 36.

'Magic and Divination: Old Russian Sources', in The Occult in Russian and Soviet Culture, Cornell UP, 1997, pp. 35– 58.

'The "Hand of Glory" and "Dead Candles"', FLS News: The Newsletter of the Folklore Society, June, 1995, p. 6.

'Alchemy and the Virtues of Stones in Muscovy' in Alchemy and Chemistry in the 16th and 17th Centuries, ed. P. Rattansi and A. Clericuzio, Dordrecht, 1994, pp. 149– 59.

(With Faith Wigzell) 'Gullible Girls and Dreadful Dreams: Zhukovskii, Pushkin and Popular Divination', Slavonic and East European Review, 70, 4, 1992, pp. 647– 69.

'The Great Beast in Russia: Aleister Crowley's Theatrical Tour in 1913 and his Beastly Writings on Russia' in Arnold McMillin (ed.), Symbolism and After. Essays on Russian Poetry in Honour of Georgette Donchin, Bristol, 1992, pp. 137– 61.

'What was the Volkhovnik? New Light on a Banned Book', Slavonic and East European Review, 68, 4, 1991, pp. 718– 23.

'Scientific Instruments in pre– Petrine and Petrine Russia', Annals of Science, 1991.

'Alchemy, Magic, Poisons and the Virtues of Stones in the Old Russian Secretum Secretorum', Ambix, 1991, pp. 46– 64. 

'Navigation and the Modernization of Petrine Russia: Teachers, Textbooks, Terminology' in Russia in the Age of the Enlightenment: Essays for Isabel de Madariaga, Macmillan, London, 1991.

Contributions to The Russian Chronicles. A Thousand Years that Changed the World: From the Beginnings of the Land of Rus to the New Revolution of Glasnost Today, London, Sydney, Auckland, Johannesburg, 1990.

'Problèmes de traduction scientifique en vieux– russe: le Secretum secretorum' in La Traduction au moyen âge, Paris, 1989.

'Maimonides in Muscovy: Medical Texts and Terminology', Journal of the Warburg and Courtauld Institutes, 51, 1989.

'Aristotle and Pseudo– Aristotle in Kievan and Muscovite Russia' in Pseudo– Aristotle in the Middle Ages: The Theology and Other Texts, edited by Jill Kraye, W. F. Ryan and C. B. Schmitt, Warburg Institute Surveys and Texts XI, London, 1986, pp. 97– 109.

'Limelight on Eastern Europe: The Great Dissolving Views at the Royal Polytechnic', The New Magic Lantern Journal, 4 (The Ten Year Book), London, 1986, pp. 48– 55.

'Solomon, SATOR, Acrostics and Leo the Wise in Russia', Oxford Slavonic Papers, new ser., XIX, 1986, pp. 46– 61.

'The Passion of St Demetriusand the Secret of Secrets. An Onomantic Interpolation', Cyrillomethodianum, VIII– IX [Festschrift for Academician D. S. Likhachev], 1984– 5 (1986), pp. 59– 65.

'Astronomy in Church Slavonic: Linguistic Aspects of Cultural Transmission' in The Formation of the Slavonic Literary Languages (UCLA Slavic Studies 11), Columbus, 1985, pp. 53– 60.

'Bead Calculator' in Tradescant's Rarities, ed. A. MacGregor, Oxford, 1983.

'Peter the Great's English Yacht: Admiral Lord Carmarthen and the Russian Tobacco Monopoly', The Mariner's Mirror, 69, 1, 1983, pp. 65– 87.

'The Secretum secretorum and the Muscovite Autocracy', in Pseudo– Aristotle: The Secret of Secrets: Sources and Influences, ed. W. F. Ryan and Charles B. Schmitt, Warburg Institute Surveys IX, London, 1982, pp. 114– 23.

'Science in 17th– century Muscovy: Texts and Terminology', Newsletter of the Study Group on 18th– century Russia, 8, l980.

Chairman's afterword in Great Britain and Russia in the Eighteenth Century: Contacts and Comparisons, ed. A. G. Cross, Newtonville, 1979, pp. 225– 27.

'Peter the Great's English Yacht', Newsletter of the Study Group on 18th– century Russia, 7, 1979.

'The Old Russian Version of the Pseudo– Aristotelian Secretum secretorum', The Slavonic and East European Review, 56, 2, 1978, pp. 242– 60.

V. Raien [W. F. Ryan], 'Russkii rukopisnyi uchebnik korablevozhdeniia 1703 goda' ['A Russian Manuscript Manual of Navigation of 1703'] in Trudy XIII Mezhdunarodnogo kongressa po istorii nauki, sektsiia VI, Moscow, 1974, pp. 233– 6 (republished in Istoriko– astronomicheskie issledovaniia, XII (1975), pp. 121– 6).

'Curious Star Names in Slavonic Literature', Russian Linguistics, I, 2, 1974, pp. 137– 50.

'John Tradescant's Russian Abacus', Oxford Slavonic Papers, new ser., V, 1972, pp. 83–8.

'The Oriental Duodenary Animal Cycle in Old Russian Manuscripts', Oxford Slavonic Papers, new ser., IV, 1971, pp. 12– 20.

'The Onomantic Table in the Old Russian Secretum secretorum', The Slavonic and East European Review, L, 17, 1971, pp. 603– 6.F

Glossary of Old Russian terms appended to J. Fennell and D. Obolensky, Russian Historical Reader, Oxford, 1969.

Sixteen articles on Russian literature in The Oxford Companion to English Literature, 4th edn, Oxford, 1969.

V. Raian [W. F. Ryan], 'Ob odnoi rukopisi Kosmografii Publichnoi biblioteki v Leningrade' ['On a Manuscript Cosmographia in the Leningrad Public Library'], Trudy Otdela drevnerusskoi literatury, XXIV, Leningrad, 1969, pp. 603– 6.

'Drevnerusskii perevod zhizneopisaniia Aristotelia Diogena Laertskogo' ['The Old Russian Version of the Life of Aristotle by Diogenes Laertius'], Slavia, XXXVII, 2 , Prague, 1968, pp. 348– 55.

'Aristotle in Old Russian Literature', Modern Language Review, LXIII, 3, 1968, pp. 650– 68.

'Some Observations on the History of the Astrolabe and of Two Russian Words: astrolabija and matka' in Studies in Slavic Linguistics and Poetics in Honor of Boris O. Unbegaun, New York and London, 1968, pp. 155– 64.

'Some Russian Contributions to the History of the Microscope', Proceedings of the Royal Microscopical Society, II, 3, 1967, pp. 362– 5.

'John Russell RA and Early Lunar Mapping', Smithsonian Journal of History, 1, 1966, pp. 27– 48.

'Science in Medieval Russia', History of Science, V, 1966, pp. 52– 61.

'A Russian Version of the Secreta Secretorum in the Bodleian Library', Oxford Slavonic Papers, XII, 1965, pp. 40– 48.

'Rathborne's Surveyor (1616/1625): the first Russian Translation from English?', Oxford Slavonic Papers, XI, 1964, pp. 1– 7