Leningrad: Vremia, 1925. Item #1217
 pp. 26x21 cm. One of 8000 copies printed. Original illustrated wrappers. Few small tears to the spine, few millimeters cut from the top of the block. Coupe of small stains on p. . Otherwise very good.
Legendary rarity. No paper copies located in Worldcat.
In Mandelstam’s lifetime bibliography children’s books occupy substantial space: of 9 lifetime poetry books that Osip Emilievich was able to produce, before he was banned by Soviet censorship indefinitely, four are the books of poetry for children.
All four of them are printed in 1925 (‘Primus’ is the one with the smallest print run of all) - the time when Mandelstams moved to Leningrad in the new flat. At the time in both Moscow and Leningrad the chromolithographic children’s book publishing started to gain its momentum: the best artist from right and left spectrums of the art field were trying their methods designing books for children. With the constructivist artists being very active in this particular field, claiming that the Soviet book for newborn citizens of the USSR should be as applied as possible, the whole field of book publishing for the children became also an artistic battleground, where different ideas clashed.
Mstislav Dobuzhinskiy (1875-1957), the prominent member of Mir Iskusstva group, represents less radical camp on this battlefield and he has managed to create the extremely popular images for one of the most iconic children’s books of the 1920s - as it concentrates on the object of primus (oil stove), that became the required attribute in the usual Soviet household. Mikhail Bulgakov has famously lifted the concept of primus to another level in ‘Master and Margarita’, making it almost into one of the characters of the narrative.
Later in the 1930s accused of being an attribute of the ‘everyday slavery’ [bytovoe rabstvo], primus didn’t have that connotation in the 1920s and were basking in the mushed deserved glory being the symbol of the home comfort for thousands of habitants of Soviet cities and towns.
Dobuzhinskiy put his artist’s monogram on the cover of the book on the base of the primus, almost as a reminder to us, that not only the leftist artists left the mark in the creation of Soviet children’s books of 1920s. Dobuzhinskiy immigrated to Europe the same year and has spent his whole life in Riga, Paris and later New York where he died in 1957.
The co-author of this book - Osip Mandelstam (1891-1938), stayed in the USSR and faced a different fate: after the anti-Stalin poem written in 1933 he was arrested, exiled and then sent to the Far East, where he died in the transit prison in 1938.
No paper copies located in Worldcat.