Mykola Bantysh-Kamensky was born in Nizhyn, Chernihiv province. He came from the kin of Moldovian boyars, descendants of princes Kantemirivs who settled in Ukraine at the beginning of the 18 th century.
He studied at Nizhyn Greek School and at Kyiv Mohyla and Moscow Slavonic-Greek-Latin academies, attended lectures at Moscow University, had a command of many languages. Chancellor count M. Vorontsov invited M. Bantysh-Kamensky to diplomatic service, but he chose Moscow archives of the State College of Foreign Affairs, which he later headed (1783).
The scholar’s fifty-year activity found its reflection in his numerous published and unpublished works. M. Bantysh-Kamensky impressed his contemporaries with his ability to work and erudition. He compiled and described an immense quantity of old documents. Among
them there are materials on Kyiv-Pechersk Lavra, Russia-Ukraine relations. Owing to his exceptional erudition in the field of paleography, thrifty attitude towards recreating texts of old man-
uscripts, the world saw The Lay of Igor’s Host. Thanks to his direct participation the first systematised multivolume edition on foreign policy of Russia from olden times to the early 19 th century was published. He initiated scientific research into the history of the Union of Orthodox and Roman Catholic churches. He compiled fundamental reference books, registers, bibliographic indices – prototypes of modern catalogues of archive documents and printed publications. He was the author of many textbooks, readers (from philosophy to Greek grammar), which were used by more than one generation of seminarists. He rendered financial support to Kyiv Mohyla Academy, but most of all – to poor students and seminarists.
M. Bantysh-Kamensky rescued almost all materials of Moscow archives from the fire of 1812. Working in humid basement depositories he lost hearing but did not stop working, satisfying “the inquisitiveness of active brains.” His work served as a basic for research by M. Karamzin, F. Tumansky, V. Ruban, M. Novikov, Ye. Bolkhovitinov.
“I’m collecting the scattered” – the epitaph on M. Bantysh-Kamensky’s grave most fully defines his role in the development of the humanities in his country.