Masterworks of 20th Century Russian Literature and Illustration

Bloomsbury Auctions New York is delighted to bring to the market an extraordinary collection of early 20th Century Russian Literature, autographs, photographs and associated illustration art from 1900 through to 1950, beginning with pieces from the ‘Silver Age’ through the Revolutionary and post Revolutionary periods through to the Stalin era. This wide ranging collection shows how the word in the novel and in poetry alongside the art of the illustrator became one of the few ways of expressing oneself in an ever more tightly controlled society. It is an unprecedented collection of rare and desirable association material from the major Russian authors and artists of this tumultuous period of history. Please click here to view the Masterworks of 20th Century Russian Literature and Illustration catalogue.

One of the sale highlights is a presentation copy of Anton Chekhov’s very first book. Also noteworthy are inscribed works by Leo Tolstoy, Maxim Gorky, Anna Akhmatova, Aleksandr Blok, Konstantin Balmont, Andrei Belyi, Ivan Bunin, Ilya Erenberg, Kornei Chukovsky, Anatolyi Lunacharsky, Vsevolod Meyerhold, Evegenii Zamyatin and other prominent literary figures. There are copies of the first and second edition of the very first Russian “coming out” novel Krylya (Wings, 1906) by Mikhail Kuzmin and other books by this modern gay icon. Especially unusual is the typed book of poetry by the OBERIU poet Nikolai Zabolotsky, complete with a collage cover.

The Russian émigré community too is well represented in Masterworks of 20th Century Russian Literature and Illustration. There is a good selection of early novels in Russian written by Vladimir Nabokov under the pseudonym “Sirin” as well as a hand-written contract for an unpublished libretto signed by “Vladimir Vladimirovich Sirin (Nabokov)” in 1924. Although the phrase Russian erotica may sound like an oxymoron, it too may be found in this sale. There are copies of Somov’s naughty rare pseudo eighteenth-century pastiche Le livre de la marquise (1918) as well as the two last works of erotica to be published during the Soviet regime. Also for sale is a beautiful copy of the notorious hand-colored lithographs Idylle printanière (1933) by the celebrated children’s book illustrator Fedor Rojankovsky.

Besides many fine illustrated books, there are original drawings and watercolors by such esteemed artists as Altman, Annenkov, Bilibin, Burliuk, Chekhonin, Goncharova, Grigoriev, Larionov, Narbut, Puni, Roerich, Soudeikin and Kiril Zdanevich. The autograph material includes examples by Sasha Chorny, Aleksei Remizov, Benedikt Livshits and a letter by Leon Trotsky in German. There are also rare periodicals and photographs, including a rare signed photograph of Akhmatova. This unprecedented collection reflects the great variety of intellectual, literary, and artistic developments in Russian culture during the early 20th century. For a fuller introduction to the sale by Michael Patrick Hearn, curator, please click here.

Viewings will be held on Thursday, May 15th until Tuesday, May 20th from 9:00 am until 5:30 pm and on Wednesday, May 21st from 9:00 am until 12:00 pm. The auction will begin on Wednesday, May 21st at precisely 2:00 pm. Visit to view the catalogue, auction calendar and sale results.

Bloomsbury Auctions is the world’s leading auction house for rare books and works on paper and is headquartered in London with salerooms in New York and Rome.