Vilnius: B.A. Kletskin, 1916. Item #1225
47 pp. 22,5x16 cm. Original illustrated front cover preserved. Good. No back cover, front cover and spine repaired with paper, tears of edges and soiling, the early 1920s Soviet bookshop’s stamps on t.p. and front cover.
Extremely rare and remarkable wartime edition of Vilna publisher Boris Kletskin (1875–1937) that contains the first publication of Isaac Peretz’s story about the founder of Hasidic Judaism, Baal Shem Tov.
Vilnius and the rest of Lithuania were occupied by the German Army from 1915 until 1918. Thousands of Jewish refugees appeared in the country; the Jewish intelligentsia tried to do everything possible to organize the publication of new books, but it was extremely difficult. Most of the Yiddish publishing centers were occupied. Military censorship was fierce - the Jewish press was completely banned by the decree of the high military command in July 1916. Kletskin was considered the first genuine publisher of modern Yiddish literature. He had founded the publishing house in 1910, printed the pioneering magazines and a wide range of Yiddish fiction and non-fiction. During the wartime, he focused on publishing children’s literature that was reluctantly allowed. He managed to print the only adult book that was dedicated to the anniversary of the death of the great awakener of Yiddish-speaking Jewry, Isaac Leib Peretz (1852-1915).
Kletskin’s books always attracted the leading masters of that time. Among designers and illustrators were Marc Chagall, Benzion Zuckerman, Menachem and Nathan Birnbaum, Mendel Gorshman.
This book was designed by Benzion Zuckerman (1890–1942?), a Vilnius native with a European education, a master of the impressionist landscape. Initially studied at the Drawing School in Vilnius, Zuckerman later left for Berlin and Paris where he proceeded to learn art and had his first solo exhibition in Paris in 1913. During WWI, he lived in Moscow and later returned to Vilnius. In the 1920s, he successfully emigrated to Jerusalem. In his book graphics, the Art Nouveau style combined with Jewish national motives. This collection in memory of Isaac Peretz is an excellent example of such a synthesis.
The edition included Peretz’s earlier unpublished short story ‘Sermon-Gift: The Legend of the Baal Shem Tov’ (1907) and articles about him by other writers by Baal Makhshoves (pen name of I.I. Elyashev), H.D. Nomberg and I. Zinberg. The latter, Israel Zinberg (or Sergei Tsinberg; 1873-1939) was one of the notable figures of Soviet Jewish culture. In the 1920-1930s, his works were often published in foreign publications and he was in active correspondence with friends and colleagues outside the USSR. He hardly cooperated with official Yiddish periodicals, but his apartment was one of the few centers of the Jewish diaspora in Leningrad. In 1938, he was arrested and exiled to the Far East camp.
Most thoughts expressed by the contemporaries and literary colleagues in this collection were subsequently taken up and developed in the monographs by other prominent Jewish literary critics.
Worldcat shows the only copy located in Hebrew Union College.