9 July 2019
PUSHKIN, Alexander (1799-1837). Ruslan i Liudmila. Poema v shesti pesniakh. [Ruslan and Liudmila. A Poem in Six Cantos]. St Petersburg: N. Grech, 1820.
The very rare first edition of Pushkin’s first book, which ‘raised [Pushkin] to the summit of Russian Parnassus’ (V. Terras) – a remarkable copy in a contemporary Russian binding. Pushkin began writing this mock epic while still at the Tsarskoe Selo lyceum, and continued to work on it from 1817 to 1820, between drinking bouts, gambling sprees and duels. Ruslan and Liudmila was published in June 1820, but Pushkin would not see a copy for at least a year: he was already exiled to Southern Russia for writing scandalous epigrams about the Imperial family. Pushkin’s epic poem proved a resounding success and sold out quickly – after which copies could be acquired for the unprecedented sum of 25 rubles. Kilgour 874; Smirnov-Sokol’skii, Pushkin, 1.
Octavo (230 x 135mm). Complete with the half-title and the engraved frontispiece by Ivan Ivanov after a sketch by Aleksei Olenin, depicting four scenes from the poem (short marginal tear to title and a couple of other leaves, small stain to p.95, a few other light marks, stamp ‘Printed in Russian’ on title.) Russian contemporary mottled sheep, spine gilt in compartments (rubbed, corners worn, spine extremities chipped); preserved in a folding cloth box. Provenance: ‘E.M.F’ (initials in Cyrillic to blank verso of divisional title to second part) – V. Miller (label of serge Lifar’s 1937 Pushkin exhibition to rear pastedown) – New York bookseller Simeon J. Bolan (bookplate).
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