WORLD LITERATURE

Katalog izdatel’stva “Vsemirnaia Literatura” pri narodnom komissariate po prosveshcheniiu. V stupitel’naia stat’ia M. Gor’kogo. Catalogue des éditions de la “Littérature Mondiale” paraissant sous le patronnage du Commissariat de l’Instruction publique. Préface de M. Gorky.

St Petersburg, “Vsemirnaia Literatura”, 1919.

Small folio, pp. 170, [3]; last few leaves lightly soiled, a few marks here and there, but generally a good copy; later blue cloth, spine worn.

£650

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Katalog izdatel’stva “Vsemirnaia Literatura” pri narodnom komissariate po prosveshcheniiu. V stupitel’naia stat’ia M. Gor’kogo. Catalogue des éditions de la “Littérature Mondiale” paraissant sous le patronnage du Commissariat de l’Instruction publique. Préface de M. Gorky.

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A catalogue marking the launch of a series of popular editions of the classics of world literature by the publishing house ‘Vsemirnaia Literatura’ (‘World Literature’), established by Gorky in 1919. Following a preface by Gorky, printed in Russian, French, English, and German, the catalogue lists works of French, English, American, German, Italian, Spanish, Portuguese, Swedish, Norwegian, and Danish literature published from the late 18th century to the present, or as the preface explains, between the French Revolution and the Russian Revolution. The works, listed in Russian and also in their original language, were to be published in a popular (student’s) edition, and further ventures covering different countries and periods were also planned.

‘Perhaps because of his international reputation and because of his friendship with Lenin and Lunarcharskii, Gorky was allowed a considerable degree of independence. He used his position to protect and support intellectuals who found themselves in increasing trouble with the new authorities. He gathered around himself an ideologically heterogenous group, which included on the one hand Briusov and Blok and on the other Merezhkovskii, Gi[p]pius, Gumilov, Aikhenvald, and Sologub. He gave work to hundreds of unemployed intellectuals as translators and as editorial consultants by drawing up extensive publishing plans. He hoped to publish more than 800 volumes of first-rate literature in the course of three years. In fact, up to 1922 Gorky’s firm produced only 59 volumes. Even this accomplishment was an astounding achievement and obviously the result of the support that Gorky enjoyed in the highest levels of leadership’ (Peter Kenez, The birth of the propaganda state, 1985, p. 102). In December 1920, over Gorky’s protest, ‘Vsemirnaia Literatura’ was amalgamated into Gosizdat.

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