Moscow: Molodaia gvardiia, 1931. Item #1275
16 pp.: ill. 16,5x13,5 cm. In original illustrated wrappers. Slightly rubbed, tears of the spine, minor fragments of covers lost, otherwise very good.
First edition. Very rare. Design was produced by Feodor Kondratov (1897-1944), graphic and theatrical artist, book illustrator, and member of OST society. During his study at VKHUTEMAS, Kondratov contributed to the design of the Red Square, Moscow streets and public areas. He designed Moscow and Leningrad theater performances and taught stage design in VKHUTEMAS in 1924-1927. In the 1930, he mainly focused on book design contributing to editions of GIZ and ‘Molodaia gvardiia’. He participated in Moscow and Leningrad exhibitions, as well as the 1931 international show ‘Book Art’ in Paris and Lyon.
The Soviet enthusiasm for airships coincided with the peak of constructivism and some attractive editions on this topic were printed with constructivist layout and photomontages. The innovative design of this drawn children’s book resembles film stills: colorful and laconic illustrations placed on the middle strip of every page.
The Soviet Union successfully built an airship in 1925, but this type of aircraft had no rich history in Russia. In the pre-revolutionary period, various aerostats were developed in theoretical works by Konstantin Tsiolkovsky. He dreamed of a metal aircraft and developed his own design in the 1880s. This project, so progressive for its time, was not supported. A few non-rigid models were used by the Russian army in the 1900-1910s. Airships were considered unprofitable for construction: slower than airplanes, but costly and extremely unreliable due to the risk of fire.
On September 10, 1930, a huge Graf Zeppelin flew over Moscow and the book was based on this event. Later it visited the USSR again during the 1931 flight to the Soviet Arctic. Ideas of North exploration revived abandoned Russian airship designs. Under the direction of Tsiolkovsky and Italian engineer Umberto Nobile, the Soviet Union developed new lighter-than-air aircraft. Funds for the construction were collected throughout the country - just like for airplanes earlier. This children’s book told that dwellers of an apartment house raised some amount of money for a Soviet “zeppelin” and such advertising popped up in different printed materials. In general, 13 semi-rigid airships were constructed in the USSR in the 1930s. Not a single rigid airship, that Tsiolkovsky dreamed of, was ever created in the USSR.
Worldcat shows copies in Princeton, Columbia Universities.