St. Petersburg: V Gubernskom Pravlenii, 1803. XLIV, 268 pp. 20,6х12,7 cm. Contemporary full leather. Near fine, uncharacteristic of Russian books from the 1800s. Stamp ‘Otrada’ [i.e. Joy] on the title page, likely 19th century.
First Russian edition (the second one being 1879). Extremely rare.
The edition opens with a preface by the translator D. Yazykov, followed by the preface by André Morellet, followed by the correspondence between Beccaria and André Morellet, the comments by Diderot are also included.
The book which heavily influenced Catherine the Great and Russian politics of the late 18th century was originally intended to be printed during her reign, but it didn’t happen and the book only came out during the 3rd year of Alexander I rule as a sort of delayed parting wishes from the grandmother to the grandson.
However, Beccaria himself influenced Russian law system directly. The main law code of the Empire, the famous ‘Nakaz’ of Catherine the Great that was first printed in 1770, included the passages from ‘Dei delitti e delle pene’ as well as Montesquieu’s ‘De l’esprit des loix’. ‘Nakaz’ substituted previous code of the similar kind that was prepared over a century prior, ‘Ulozhenie’ (1649).
‘Nakaz’ served as a main law book in the Russian Empire until Nicholas I ordered to make a multivolume edition of all the laws of the Russian empire ‘Svod Zakonov Rossiyskoy Imperii’ in 1830.
Catherine the Great who started to work on ‘Nakaz’ in 1766, two years after the edition was printed, invited Beccaria to come to Russia at the time but he refused.
Pavel I, who came to power after Catherine the Great, didn’t approve of the enlightenment politics of his mother, so he was getting ready to get rid of ‘Nakaz’ and implement new code that would reflect the military discipline. Pavel didn’t have enough time to do that, possibly choked to death by the people in his close circle, and his son Alexander I had a chance to continue the political course of his grandmother.
In this time the Russian edition of ‘On Crime and Punishments’ finally appeared, symbolically and practically at the right time. It was prepared by the key figure of Russian education and enlightenment of the 1800s, Dmitri Yazykov (1773-1844), historian, translator and educator, the person who first has dropped the letters ‘ ъ, Ѣ ‘ from some of his editions (the initiative later supported by Vasiily Kamensky and futurists in the 1910s, he has prepared several fundamental dictionaries and compilations, and also translated in full for the first time ‘De l’esprit des loix’ (1810). Later he became the head of the Department of the Ministry of Public Education, supported Karamzin and became the first to suggest that the old Belorussian language was the spoken language of Rus’.
In the second part of 19th century Beccaria has influenced the Russian context once again, when Dostoevsky has chosen the title one one of his main books referencing the work of the great Italian.