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Rare editions of Tolstoy's works and their illustrators

This page gives an overview of rare and illustrated editions of Leo Tolstoy's novels Resurrection and Anna Karenina, with particular emphasis on their British Library holdings. 

Voskresenie (Resurrection)

The British Library recently acquired the uncensored fourth edition of Leo Tolstoy’s novel Voskresenie (Resurrection) published by A. Chertkov in 1900 in England and illustrated by Leonid Pasternak. The catalogue entry is as follows:

Tolstoy, Lev Nikolaevich. Voskresenie. Roman v trekh chastiakh. Polnaia, neiskazhennaia tsenzuroiu versiia ... Chetvertoe ispravlennoe izdanie "Svobodnago Slova" s illiustratsiiami khudozhnika L.O. Pasternaka, priobretennymi ot ikh angliiskago sobstvennika [Resurrection. A novel in three parts. The complete version, undistorted by the censor ... Fourth corrected "Free Word" edition with illustrations by the artist Leonid Pasternak, acquired from their English owner] ... Purleigh, Maldon, Essex, A. Tchertkoff [Chertkov], 1900. (BL shelfmark: RF.2007.a.2)

Tolstoy worked on Voskresenie (Resurrection) from 1889 to 1899. Its publication was one of the prime causes of Tolstoy’s excommunication from the Russian Orthodox Church. The contradiction between the demands of literature and the demands of the moral message which Tolstoy by now felt obliged to include has been frequently commented on.

Voskresenie (Resurrection) was first published by Vladimir Chertkov, a gifted and ambitious member of the Russian aristocracy, who became the publisher of Tolstoy’s works in England. In 1893 during one of his visits to England he set up printing facilities to publish periodicals and pamphlets censored or banned by the tsarist government. After becoming finally exiled to England, Chertkov enlarged his publishing business, which was now operating under the name of Free Age Press (Svobodnoe Slovo). The Free Age Press published more than sixty of Tolstoy’s works in Russian and English. A fire-proof repository was constructed at the publishing house and printing press near Christchurch, Hants. for Tolstoy’s manuscripts and letters. In 1923 these were transferred to Russia.

It was decided to publish Voskresenie (Resurrection) simultaneously in Russia, where the text had to be passed by the censor, and in England where it did not. Both editions appeared in 1899; the censored version in instalments in the journal Niva and the uncensored printed by Chertkov.

Between 1899 and 1900, Chertkov produced five editions in all. The British Library holds the first edition (in 13 issues – BL shelfmark: Cup.407.bb.29, purchased in 1976) and the 3rd edition (one physical volume, BL shelfmark: 012591.m.32, deposited by the printers in 1901). Both editions are the so called “cheap” editions, without illustrations.

The 3rd (2,000 copies) and the 5th (5,000 copies) editions of this novel published by V. Chertkov are the most popular ones and are also held in the other legal deposit libraries in the UK. The rarer 4th illustrated edition published in 1,000 copies was missed as a legal deposit copy by the legal deposit libraries in this country.

The illustrations were created by the artist Leonid Pasternak, father of the famous author of Doctor Zhivago, in response to Tolstoy’s personal request. As Tolstoy already knew that the novel would be published abroad, he asked Pasternak to pay special attention to portraying various “typical Russian characters” and “special features of life in Russia”. The author approved the illustrations and was especially fond of the picture Three judges where Pasternak, in Tolstoy’s opinion, revealed even more criticism than the author himself. The illustrations themselves are very well known as they were frequently reproduced in the Russian censored editions and in translations of the novel. The BL also holds the Russian edition published in St. Petersburg, 1900 (BL shelfmark: 012591.m.28) and the translation into English (by Louise Maude) published by F.R. Henderson in London in 1900 (BL shelfmark: 012591.l.62), both illustrated by L.O. Pasternak. Pasternak was also well-known for his illustrations to War and Peace.

Chertkov also published in his “Free Age Press” edition a separate album of Pasternak’s Resurrection illustrations in England in 1901. This volume under the title Al’bom khudozhestvennykh illiustratsii k romanu L.N. Tolstogo “Voskresenie” (Album of artistic illustrations to Tolstoy’s novel “Resurrection”) is held by the British Library (BL shelfmark: 012590.dd.16). In addition to these printed volumes the BL also holds eight leaves of the drafts of Resurrection (in Russian), the first three partly in a copyist's hand, the rest autograph, of a passage in an earlier version of Resurrection, discarded in the printed edition of 1899 (BL shelfmark: Add.40688.f.2).

Anna Karenina

Part of Anna Karenina appeared serially in 1875, but it was not until 1878 that the completed work appeared in book form. The British Library holds an 1878 Russian edition published in Moscow (BL shelfmark: Cup.400.b.13), on the wrapper of which appear the words “Izdanie vtoroe” (Second edition). The Library also holds a limited edition of the translation by Constance Garnett with wood-engravings by Nikolai Piskarev. This was published in 1933 for the Members of the Limited Editions Club of New York by the State Publishing House for Fiction & Poetry in Moscow (BL shelfmark: C.104.f.10).

Piskarev’s Illustrations to Tolstoy’s Anna Karenina, 1932 are wood engravings in two colours which show the strong influence of the graphic artist Favorsky. Piskarev had exhibited his works several times abroad and had some influence on graphic arts of foreign countries. So when American bibliophiles were thinking about producing a deluxe edition of Anna Karenina, it was not surprising that they asked Piskarev to illustrate it and provide the artistic design (cover, fly-leaf and arrangement of pages). This edition, with its application of colour illustrations on wood, giving added expressivity to the situations depicted, was very well received. The edition also has an introduction by Anatoly Lunacharsky, the first Soviet People’s Commissar for Enlightenment. In 1951 the University Press Cambridge printed for the members of the Limited Editions Club an edition of Constance Garnett’s translation, edited and revised by Gustavus Spett and illustrated with lithographs by Barnett Freedman. The copy in the British Library is one of 15 presentation copies (BL shelfmark: C.105.g.5).

Contact

Peter W. Hellyer, Curator, Russian Studies
European Studies
The British Library
96 Euston Road
London
NW1 2DB
United Kingdom

Tel: +44 (0)20 7412 7582

E-mail: peter.hellyer@bl.uk

Katya Rogatchevskaia, Lead Curator, Russian Studies
European Studies
The British Library
96 Euston Road
London
NW1 2DB
United Kingdom

Tel: +44 (0)20 7412 7587

E-mail: katya.rogatchevskaia@bl.uk