Foreign Literature

Contact Donovan Rees or Joanna Skeels

This department specialises in rare and important works of French, German, Italian, Russian, Spanish and South American literature from the eighteenth to the twentieth centuries.

Here you can find first editions and signed or presentation copies of authors as diverse as Akhmatova, Balzac, Borges, Camus, Chekhov, Dostoevsky, Goethe, Goldoni, Hugo, Kafka, Leopardi, Lorca, Manzoni, Pirandello, Pushkin, Schiller, Tolstoy, Zola, and many others. Among the important works which have passed through our hands are the original working manuscript of Turgenev's Fathers and Sons, now in the Pushkin House in St Petersburg, the only known copy of the first edition of Brecht's first play, Baal (1920) with his working notes, and an extraordinary collection of Pushkin first editions.
  1. BOWRING, Sir John.

    Wybōr poezyi polskiéy. Specimens of the Polish Poets; with Notes and Observations on the Literature of Poland …

    London, printed for the author, and sold by Baldwin, Cradock & Joy and Rowland Hunter, 1827.

    First edition: the first collection of Polish poetry in English. ‘John Bowring was a true friend of the Poles and became an ardent spokesman of the Polish cause in Britain; his Specimens of the Polish Poets (London 1827), the first Polish anthology in English, bear evidence of the important...


  2. BOWRING, Sir John.

    Poetry of the Magyars, preceded by a Sketch of the Language and Literature of Hungary and Transylvania …

    London, printed for the author, and sold by Robert Heward, and Rowland Hunter, and Otto Wigand in Pest, 1830

    First edition: the first appearance of Hungarian literature in English, ‘the first world-wide presentation of the hitherto unknown poetry and literature of an almost unknown people, written in an unknown language’ (Varannai, p. 105). It was for a long time the only Western source for Hungarian poetry.


  3. GOSZCZYNSKI, Seweryn and Antoni MALCZEWSKI.

    Les Ukraïniennes … traduites par Clémence Robert.

    Paris. J. A. Merklein … 1835.

    First edition in French of two key texts of Polish Romanticism, Zamek Kaniowski (1828) [The Castle of Koniow] by Seweryn Goszczynski (1801-1876), and Maria (1825) by Antoni Malczewski (1793-1826).


  4. RADIUS, J. S. C. de.

    Characteristic Features of Russian and Slavic Poetry, with Specimens, translated by English Authors …

    London, printed by Seyfang & Co. [for the author], 1854.

    Only edition. This little book contains what must be some of the earliest translations of Ukrainian, Serbian, Bulgarian, Slovene, Slovak, and Sorb verse into English. It certainly offers an early example of comparative Slavonic studies. Most of the specimens, however, are Russian, among them Delvig’s...


  5. ČAPEK, Karel.

    Loupežník. Komedie o třech dejstvích.

    Prague, Aventinum, 1920.

    First edition, rare, of Čapek’s first comedy, The Robber (or The Outlaw). The play was produced at the National Theatre in Prague in March 1920 starring the actress Olga Scheinpflugová (who later became Čapek’s wife) in the central role. An earlier version of the play, a combined...


  6. ČAPEK, Karel.

    Věc Makropulos. Komedie o třech dějstvích s přeměnou.

    Prague, Aventinum, 1922.

    First edition of Čapek’s satirical drama on the theme of longevity, the source for Janáček’s opera, The Makropulos Case. The composer had seen the play early into its run in December 1922, and soon began a correspondence with Čapek over the possibility of using it as the basis for an opera....


  7. KAFKA, Franz.

    Zámek. Román.

    Prague, Mánes, 1935.

    First edition in Czech of Kafka’s The Castle (1926), translated by Pavel Eisner. Eisner (1889-1958) was an essayist and prolific translator between German and Czech. His translations of The Castle and The Trial introduced Kafka’s works to a wider Czech readership.


  8. PUSHKIN, Aleksandr Sergeevich.

    Můj rodokmen [My genealogy].

    [Prague, Průmyslová tiskárna, 1937.]

    First edition, privately printed, of this Czech translation of Pushkin’s Moia rodoslovnaia (‘My genealogy’, 1830), the great Russian poet’s defence of his ancestry against some recent racial slurs. The fine illustrations are by Karel Svolinský (1896–1986), who is best known for his designs...