Happy Birthday, Tolstoy!

As you may have seen from today’s Google Doodle, 9 September is Lev Tolstoy’s birthday:

leo-tolstoy

But where did it all start?  How did Tolstoy become a writer?  It all began in 1852, when Tolstoy was 23 years old, and convalescing in Tiflis after mercury treatment for ‘the venereal sickness’ when he completed the first part of Childhood, his first attempt at fiction.  In the September of that year, the story duly appeared in a St Petersburg monthly, Sovremennik (The Contemporary), above the initials ‘L. N.':

Tolstoy

It created an immediate sensation, one reviewer writing: ‘If this is the first production of L. N. Russian literature must be congratulated on the appearance of a new and remarkable talent.’  It was Tolstoy’s first published work.

‘The original plan comprised a great novel (with the general title of Four Epochs of Growth) founded – but only founded – on the reminiscences and traditions of his family, so that Tolstoy was displeased when the magazine altered his Childhood to The History of My Childhood.  “The alteration is especially disagreeable,” he complained to the editor, “because, as I wrote to you, I meant Childhood to form the first part of a novel”’ (Rosemary Edmonds, preface to her translation, 1961).  That novel, Detstvo i otrochestvo (Childhood and Boyhood), was published in 1856.

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‘The History of My Childhood’, the title of Tolstoy’s story as it first appeared, altered by the editor of ‘Sovremennik’.

 

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Three Men in a Boat encounter Russian pirates

This year is the 125th anniversary of the first appearance of Three Men in a Boat, published by J. W. Arrowsmith in Bristol (who, three years later, was to bring out that other classic comic novel, George and Weedon Grossmith’s The Diary of a Nobody).  Although slated by some critics at the time, the book sold in huge numbers, leading Arrowsmith to comment: ‘I pay Jerome so much in royalties, I cannot imagine what becomes of all the copies of that book I issue.  I often think the public must eat them.’  It has never been out of print since.

A few years later and translations followed, one of the earliest being into Russian, in 1894.

The first appearance in Russian of "Three Men in a Boat", across seven monthly parts of "Vestnik Inostrannoi Literatury", 1894.

The first appearance in Russian of “Three Men in a Boat”, across seven monthly parts of “Vestnik Inostrannoi Literatury”, 1894.

 

Once the reading public has got the taste for something, the need must be fed.  That was certainly the case in Russia, where Jerome was insatiably devoured.  Jerome was himself involved in the process, liaising with his translator, Nadezhda Zharintsova, during her work.

"Na podmostkakh" (literally "On the boards"), 1896, a translation of "On the Stage and off" (1885) and "Stageland" (1889), with original illustrations by D. Pakhomov.

“Na podmostkakh” (literally “On the boards”), 1896, a translation of “On the Stage and off” (1885) and “Stageland” (1889), with original illustrations by D. Pakhomov.

 

First edition in Russian of "Idle Thoughts of an Idle Fellow" (1886) and "The Second Thoughts of an Idle Fellow" (1898), published in St Petersburg in 1899.  According to the preface, Zharintsova corresponded directly with Jerome over the translation, receiving corrections etc.

First edition in Russian of “Idle Thoughts of an Idle Fellow” (1886) and “The Second Thoughts of an Idle Fellow” (1898), published in St Petersburg in 1899. According to the preface, Zharintsova corresponded directly with Jerome over the translation, receiving corrections etc.

 

First edition in Russian of "Three Men on the Bummel", literally here "A Threesome on Four Wheels" (both 1900).  ‘This book, like all the previous works of Jerome K. Jerome, was translated by me from corrections sent by the author before the publication of the original in England.  The title “Three Men an a Bummel” [sic] is substituted for the Russian edition at the instructions of the author himself’ (Preface).

First edition in Russian of “Three Men on the Bummel”, literally here “A Threesome on Four Wheels” (both 1900). ‘This book, like all the previous works of Jerome K. Jerome, was translated by me from corrections sent by the author before the publication of the original in England. The title “Three Men an a Bummel” [sic] is substituted for the Russian edition at the instructions of the author himself’ (Preface).

However, when it seen there is money to made from a book, others may try and cash in.  Following the success of Jerome’s works in Russia, unauthorised translations began to appear.  Not only that, other stories, not written by Jerome but passed off as his, appeared under his name.  By 1902, things had come to a head and Jerome wrote a letter to The Times entitled ‘Literary Piracy in Russia’:

‘The Germans have a proverb, “Let him who is hurt cry out.”  In the interests of international copyright I would that some English writer of more importance than myself were equally a sufferer by reason of the incomprehensible disinclination of the Russian Government to conform to the Berne Convention.  Failing a more potent voice, I venture to raise my own feeble plaint against the inhospitable treatment Russia metes out to the literary guests she herself invites to visit her.  For reasons the justification of which it is not for me to attempt, the Russian public, wooed by the admirable translations of my friend Mme. Jarintzoff, commenced some years ago to take an interest in my work.  Free as the literary temperament is supposed to be of vanity, I confess to some feeling of pride at the honour thus accorded to me.  Of late my gratification has been considerably marred, however, by my powerlessness to prevent the issue of unauthorized translations, which, I am assured by my Russian friends, are at the best garbled and incorrect, and at the worst more or less original concoctions, of the merits or demerits of which I am entirely innocent, but which, nevertheless, are sold labelled with my name …  I have no remedy.  I must rest passive, knowing myself to be misrepresented …  If an author be worth translating at all, he ought to be given the right to make certain that he is translated correctly.  This can only be done by giving him and his translator legal protection …’ (The Times, 8 July 1902).

 

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The unfortunate queen

Caroline-Mathildeofwales_denmark

Princess Caroline Matilda (1751–1775), the youngest sister of George III, was married off to her cousin, Christian VII of Denmark, when she was only 15.  It was not a happy marriage.  Christian was a mentally unstable philanderer who claimed it was ‘unfashionable to love one’s wife’, and Caroline eventually drifted into an affair with the royal physician Johan Struensee, a rising star at the Danish court who effectively ruled the country for ten months as Christian’s mental health worsened.  Caroline and Struensee were arrested in January 1772; Caroline’s marriage to Christian was dissolved a few months later, and Struensee was executed.  In May, Caroline was deported, without her two children, to Celle in Germany, where she was supported by the Hanoverian exchequer.  She died three years later, of scarlet fever, aged 23.

Caroline 1

This is a translation of the spurious Memoirs of an unfortunate Queen, originally published in 1776 by the London bookseller, John Bew.  The public bought up two editions within the year, and Bew also brought out one in French.  That a German version should follow is not surprising, but the ‘Boston’ imprint most certainly is.  (The book was probably printed in Celle.)  Although you see ‘Philadelphia’ fairly regularly, ‘Boston’ struck me as unusual, and interesting.  The only earlier German book with a ‘Boston’ imprint, according to ESTC, is a small volume of sermons, Predigten von einem Bostonischen Geistlichen (1776), apparently printed in Bern.

You can read about another fictitious imprint, ostensibly the first book printed in California, here.

 

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How would you like your Karamazov?

I last blogged about Dostoevsky a couple of years ago.  He’s long been one of my favourite Russian authors, so I thought it was time I posted something again.

This was something of a find: the first translation into any language of Brat’ia Karamazovy (1879–80), published in Leipzig in 1884.  And it’s early: the first French translation followed in 1888, but the novel did not appear in English until 1912.

This issue, in green cloth, is the one syndicated by the publisher Friedrich Wilhelm Grunow to the Leipzig national-liberal newspaper Die Grenzboten, as evinced by the spine lettering.  There is also a 32-page publisher’s catalogue for the ‘Grenzboten-Sammlung’ (which included works by largely forgotten authors such as Robert Waldmüller-Duboc and Adam von Festenberg), printed on inferior paper stock, bound in at the end of vol. I.

Interestingly, the novel was also available in a completely different cloth binding:

This version, also published by Grunow, is in fancier cloth and doesn’t have the Grenzboten half-titles.  According to Heinsius’s Allgemeines Bücher-Lexikon the novel was also issued in paper wrappers, and half leather.  Take your pick!

 

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DIY DNB

I have long been interested in the intersection of manuscript and print culture.  The wonderful 2011 exhibition at the Art Institute of Chicago Altered and Adorned was full of fascinating examples.

Here is another, which came in recently:

It is manuscript biographical dictionary (202 × 163 mm), created in Germany in about 1750, in which the anonymous compiler has pasted engravings of the 100-odd subjects—writers, scholars, composers, divines—to the rectos of the leaves, leaving space for descriptive text on the facing pages.  Around half the entries have been completed, in neat manuscript ink, often with cross-references to printed sources.  A number of the portraits are by Melchior Haffner, taken from Spizelius’s Templum honoris reseratum (Augsburg, 1673).

For this and other eighteenth-century books currently in stock, please click here.

 

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Elsewhere in 1776…

1776 is famous as the year that America declared its independence (celebrated tomorrow, of course), but what else happened that year?  Here’s something: Catherine the Great’s son got married.

This collection came in recently.  Printed at present-day Stargard Szczeciński (Poland), it’s an account of the celebrations given in the town to welcome Catherine’s son, Paul, in the summer of 1776 on his way to and from Berlin to collect his intended.

No time was wasted in finding a second wife for Paul after his first, Natalia Alexeevna, died shortly after giving birth to a stillborn son, in April 1776.  A match was found in Sophia Dorothea of Württemberg, who was only 17 when she was introduced to Paul (he was 21).  ‘It was decided that Paul should go to Berlin to meet his intended.  The trip turned out to be a triumphal progress.  Every town in the Prussian kingdom through which Paul and Prince Henry [of Prussia] passed organized a celebration of greeting which emphasized over and over again how important Paul was, and how much he and his royal host were loved.  Local celebrities drawn up in ranks and splendid in their special dress or uniforms joined soldiers, police, governing officials, and the ubiquitous military bands in a crashing welcome to travelling royalty …’ (McGrew, Paul I of Russia, pp. 96–7).

This printed account tells in great detail the provision for the visit, from the military men who made up the accompanying cavalcade, to the children—188 are listed, by name—who sang, danced, and dressed up specially as shepherds and shepherdesses; the decorations are described in some detail.  Something that’s particularly nice is the inclusion, as numbered appendices at the end, of eleven pieces of printed matter for the visit, all of which have been overprinted with heading numbers for purposes of cross-referencing in the descriptive text itself.  So we learn that the printed slips of poetry, printed here on different coloured papers, reflect various coloured sashes worn during the festivities and the poems recited.

The book is listed in the Imperial Public Library’s Catalogue de la section des Russica (St Petersburg, 1873; B-1108), and a copy is recorded as having been held by the Staatsbibliothek zu Berlin before it was destroyed in the War.  Does that make this copy the only one to survive in the West?  It’s certainly a very rare book.

The collection will feature in a list of 18th-century material, due out next week.  Let me know if you’d like to receive a copy.

 

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A fat lie

I am currently putting some things together for a new catalogue.  This will be included: a spurious will by which the testator, the ‘superabundant’ Mary Hughes, in 1758 distributed various parts of her body to, among others, a Bedfordshire clergyman, the King of Prussia, the Royal Society, and the Fellows and Scholars of Trinity College, Cambridge.  Some of the more risqué elements have been crossed out by hand: ‘I bequeath him my admirable Fur Pouch, for a Night-Cap’; ‘I give to the Change-Brokers, Stock-Jobbers, and Dealers in Lottery Tickets, all my Farts to be converted into Puffs’; ‘I give my substantial Legs and Thighs for Pillars, provided the Vicar and Reader every Sunday kiss the upper parts … and my soft and spacious Bum for a cushion’.

The printer Susan Bailey was at this Bishopsgate address 1799–1804.  The text itself comes from The Shandymonian …  A Higgledy-piggledy of Controversies and Opinions … (1779, pp. 145–151), the editor of which, ‘Thomas Medley’, is also mentioned in the will.

 

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The book as weapon

During the 1960s, Uwe Wandrey (b.1939) was involved with the group Hamburg Linksliterarisch and the APO (Extra-Parliamentary Opposition movement), opposing the Emergency Acts (Notstandgesetze) of 1968 and the Vietnam War.  He was also active as a political songwriter, founding his own publishing house, Quer-Verlag, to help support the cause.  This little book, Kampfreime (‘combat rhymes’), published in 1968 in a ‘handy combat edition [62 × 117 mm] fitted with sharp edges for the phase of revolutionary resistance’, comprises two-line slogans to be used at political protests, ‘for banners, walls, notice boards, fences, placards, flyers, wall newspapers, blackboards, and for chanting.’  The binding is equally ready for the revolution.

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Joyce in Russia

June 1914 saw the publication of James Joyce’s Dubliners.  Thirteen years later, in 1927, and it became the book of Joyce’s to appear in Russia, with a wonderful cover design by 22-year-old Georgy Fitingof:

The translator was Elena Nechaeva (1885–1966), a former librarian and the wife of the intellectual writer, Georgy Fedotov, who had emigrated to France in 1925.  Nechaeva followed him a year or so later (after the death of her mother), and they became active in the Parisian émigré community.

Joyce had come to the attention of Russian readers two years before, when selections from Ulysses (from Episodes 1, 7, 12, 17, and 18) appeared in a short-lived almanac called ‘New Books from the West’, translated by V. Zhitomirsky:

A complete Russian translation did not appear until 1989, published in book form in 1993.

 

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Dracula

This was something of an exciting discovery: the first edition in Hungarian of Dracula (1897).  I knew it must be an early translation when I bought it, but it turns out it’s the first translation into any language and apparently hitherto unknown to scholarship.

The bibliography of Stoker’s seminal work of horror fiction is well served by the extensive website ‘All Things Dracula: a Bibliography of Editions, Reprints, Adaptations, and Translations of Dracula’, which lists over 100 translations in 29 different languages, stating ‘only two such editions, one in Icelandic [1901] and one in German [1908], appeared during Stoker’s lifetime …’.  The present translation, published only a year after the book’s initial appearance in London, shows that the book was already being read in Europe in the nineteenth century, with Hungarian, perhaps, a natural first choice, as Transylvania was then still part of Austria-Hungary.

The book is extremely rare: I was able to locate only one other copy, at the National Széchényi Library in Budapest.

 

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