Kiev: Kultur-Lige, 1922. Item #1230
110,  pp. 21x14,5 cm. In original printed wrappers. Fragments of spine lost, pale contemporary stamps and ink marks of Ukrainian evening courses, a pencil note written on the front cover translates Yiddish lettering into Russian, the rear side of the cover features student’s pencil drawings, otherwise very good and clean.
First edition of the second part of the last novel by Sholem Aleichem that was printed on the territory of the former Russian Empire. One of 5000 copies. In Yiddish.
The book has no illustrations but a decorative stamp of Kultur-Lige publishing house. It was created by Iosif Chaikov’s (1888-1979) in 1922. He was a Ukrainian Jewish sculptor, graphic designer and teacher, active both before the revolution and as a Soviet artist. After studying in Paris from 1910 till 1914 he returned to Kiev where together with Lissitzky and others formed the Kultur Lige. He led sculpture classes there, supervised a children’s art studio and illustrated children’s books, and in post-revolutionary Kiev focused on billboards and agitational propaganda. In 1920, Chaikov was one of the initiators and participants of the First Jewish art exhibition organized by the Kultur Lige in Kiev.
The artists of Kultur-Lige made considerable use of the graphic potential of Jewish script, the motifs and symbols of traditional Jewish art. For the stamp, Chaikov had used a variation of the biblical image of the Tree of Knowledge common in Jewish folk art. Besides, the image of the tree was quite often used as a publisher’s stamp by Jewish printers of the 16-17 centuries (Kazovsky, H. The artists of Kultur-Lige. Moscow, 2003).
Solomon Rabinovich (pen name Sholem Aleichem; 1859-1916) was one of the leading Yiddish writers in the period of the Jewish Renaissance. Since the 1890s, he was engaged in literature although often couldn’t afford to print his editions. Initially, he lived in the Russian Empire but emigrated due to tsarist pogroms in 1905. Sholem Aleichem visited the West Ukrainian diaspora in Halychyna cities, then moved to New York in 1907 where published the first chapters of the novel about an orphan boy Motl. After he lectured in Europe and the United States he came back to New York in 1916 and died while working on the second part of ‘Motl, Peysi the Cantor’s Son’.
In Kiev, the Yiddish edition of the first part of the novel was printed at the State publishing house in 1921. Kultur-Lige premiered only the second book. Established in Kiev in 1918, the organization promoted Yiddish language literature, theater and culture - and was highly influential. Its active contributors were Marc Chagall, El Lissitzky, Iosif Chaikov and many other masters whose work is now rightfully considered a classic of the 20th century. Kultur-Lige institutions were nationalized in 1920 and its editions were taken under the control of the Soviet authorities and official politics toward Jewish people.
Worldcat shows copies located in Yivo Institute and University of California.