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Auction PR Publicity Announcements News and Information

Rare Russian literature for auction at Bonhams New York

Bonhams will present a fascinating auction of Russian Literature & Works on Paper at the Madison Avenue salesroom on June 26. Building on the success of the inaugural Russian Literature auction in December 2012, Bonhams will offer Russian books, manuscripts, periodicals, posters, artwork and photography ranging from the early 19th to the mid 20th century. Movements from the intellectualism of Silver Age literature to the groundbreaking esthetics of Constructivism will be represented.

The auction’s top lot is the first authorized edition, signed by the author, of the complete works of pre-revolutionary master Gavrila Romanovich Derzhavin, published in St Petersburg between 1808-1816 (est, $60,000-80,000). A classicist, Derzhavin was perhaps the greatest Russian poet until Pushkin, and his work inspired many later poets such as Nikoli Nekrasov and Maria Tsvetaeva.

Another important work on offer is Anton Chekhov’s Povesti i razskazy (Stories and Tales) from 1894 (est. $25,000-35,000). The presentation copy is warmly inscribed to a waiter, Semen Ilich Bychkov, who worked at the Grand Hotel in Moscow where Chekhov stayed. Bychkov and Chekhov were so close that Chekhov based the character Nikolai Chikildeev in the highly regarded short story “Peasants” (1897) on Bychkov, who also acted as a godfather to his daughter.

Aleksei Mikhailovich Remizov’s 1952 original manuscript fairytale, “Listotryas. No. 5” will no doubt interest collectors of the avant-garde artist (est. $28,000-35,000). Executed in ornate calligraphy, the distinctive manuscript comes complete with a bizarre illustration of a “wolf-omnivore.” Admired by James Joyce and reviled by Vladimir Nabokov, “Listotryas. No. 5” makes it easy to see why Remizov was such a polarizing figure in European literary circles.

The extraordinary collection of Alma H Law, an American scholar and expert on Russian avant-garde theater whose studies focused on the works of Vsevolod Meyerhold, will also be offered. Often called the Picasso of Modern Theater, Meyerhold was a victim of Stalin’s censorship campaign. Arrested in June 1938, Meyerhold was tried as a spy and executed in early 1940, a martyr to the Socialism that he originally embraced whole-heartedly.

Law’s collection concentrates on early theatrical and artistic periodicals from 1910 to the 1930s, offered with other items of personal interest to the great man himself. Highlights include a collection of 256 issues of Rabochi i Teatr (Workman and Theater), one of the great Russian theatrical magazines of the 1920s and 30s (est. $10,000-15,000) and a complete set, in original wrappers, of Meyerhold’s most important publications, Liubov k trem apel’sinam and Zhurnal Doktora Dapertutto (Love for Three Oranges and Doctor Dapertutto’s Journal) published in 1914-1916 (est. $5,000-8,000).

The auction is heavily weighted towards the avant-garde, and many superb examples will be available such as Mayakovsky and Lissitzky’s masterwork of modern book design, Dlya golosa (For the Voice), published in Berlin in 1923 (est. $5,000-7,000). Still in its original constructivist wrappers, the innovative work organizes 13 poems into the form of a phone book.

Bonhams auction of Russian Literature & Works on Paper will take place June 26 in New York. The auction will preview at Bonhams June 21-25.
A fully illustrated catalog is now available at