Samara: Tsentropechat’, 1919. 96 pp. 18x11 cm. In original illustrated publisher’s wrappers. Tears and foxing of the wrappers, label and written number on the front wrapper, some toning, otherwise good/very good.
First edition. Scarce.
An extremely rare provincial edition with remarkable avant-garde design by Georgy Ryazhskiy (1895-1952).
Mikhail Gerasimov (1889-1939) went down in the history of Soviet literature as one of the leading proletarian poets of 20th century Russia. In the 1890s, while working in a variety of railroad jobs, Gerasimov joined the Samara railway technical school, allowing him to become a railway technician after graduation. At around the same time, Mikhail stepped into political activity and faced imprisonment for his involvement in the 1905 Revolution. Following his release, Gerasimov resumed political agitation and fled the country in 1907. In Europe, Mikhail joined Anatoly Lunacharsky’s Circle of Proletarian Literature and began to publish his work in socialist periodicals, including Prosveshchenie [i.e. Enlightenment] where his first poems appeared in 1913. After being deported to Russia under the claims of anti-war agitation in 1915, Gerasimov returned to his hometown of Samara, focused on the literary career and became one of the leaders of the proletarian movement. In 1919, Mikhail moved to Moscow and joined the staff of the literary department of Anatoly Lunacharsky’s People’s Commissariat of Enlightenment. Discontented with the work of Proletkult, Gerasimov founded a group of proletarian poets Kuznitsa [i.e. Smithy] (1919), which counted over 150 members and existed until the creation of the Soviet Writers Union in 1932. From the mid-1920s, Mikhail became less involved in cultural organizations, but continued to publish writings that according to Soviet critics, diverged from the path of proletarian poetry. Gerasimov was arrested and executed in 1937 during the Great Purge. Some of his most famous works include: Negasimaya sila [i.e. Inextinguishable Power] (1922), Severnaya vesna [i.e. Northern Spring] (1924), Poema o 1905 gode [i.e. Poem about 1905] (1925), etc.
During his lifetime, Gerasimov published 14 books, with the first two, Veshniye zovy [i.e. Spring Calls] and Monna Lisa, coming out in 1917 and 1918, respectively. The author’s third work, Zheleznyye tsvety [i.e. Iron Flowers], appeared in print in Samara in 1919. Back then, Samara was one of the main scenes of the Russian civil war. In May 1918, with the support of the Czechoslovak Legion, the White Forces took Samara, establishing the Committee of Members of the Constituent Assembly. The Reds managed to recapture the city in October 1918, yet, with the beginning of 1919, the situation on the fronts of the civil war became more complicated and the military operations were not ceased in Samara until 1920 (after the victory of the Reds). Against this background, Gerasimov’s choice of the publication venue and the timing is in itself quite interesting. Zheleznyye tsvety turned out to be the author’s only book printed in Samara.
The edition features a remarkable avant-garde wrapper design by the famous Soviet artist Georgiy Ryazhskiy. He received his initial art education in the drawing class of the Moscow Prechistensky evening courses for workers. After returning from World War I, Ryazhskiy studied in VKHUTEMAS under Kazimir Malevich. In the period from 1919-1920, Georgiy worked in the political departments of the Red Army in Samara, where he met the author of the present edition. In 1921, together with his fellow artists, Ryazhskiy organized the Nozh [i.e. Knife] group and in 1922 held an exhibition that became a notable event in the artistic life of the capital. The artist mainly produced posters and worked as a portraitist, thus Zheleznyye tsvety represents one of his few, if not the only, works in book design.
Overall, an extremely rare provincial edition.
Worldcat shows a copy of the edition at Stanford University.