Moscow: Gosudarstvennoe izdatel’stvo, 1930. Item #1392
110,  pp. 20x14 cm. In original illustrated wrappers. Near fine copy with uncut pages, slightly chipped, pale water stain on the upper edge of the back cover.
First and only edition. One of 3,000 copies produced. Rare.
Cover design was produced by one of the pioneers of Soviet photomontage, Malevich’s student and Klutsis’ right hand, Sergei Sen’kin (1894- 1963). Sen’kin was an important link between Suprematism and Constructivism: he worked with Malevich and Lissitzky in Vitebsk and was a member of UNOVIS in 1921, but then he became one of the active members of the Left Front of Arts in Moscow, collaborating with Rodchenko, Mayakovsky, and Stepanova. Concurrently, he worked with Gustav Klutsis, creating posters and book designs. Although traditionally the early development of photomontage in the USSR is attributed to Klutsis, Sen’kin’s role shouldn’t be underestimated. After 1921, he fully dedicated himself to industrial and applied design, creating posters and stamps and designing the Soviet pavilion at the Cologne exhibition of 1928 together with El Lissitzky.
For this edition, Sen’kin chose Mayakovsky’s portrait cut out from a group photograph that was taken in 1924. Sen’kin placed the author’s name vertically, stretching it from the right edge of the front wrapper to the far border of the spine. The contrasting title was printed on the same level with Mayakovsky’s eyes. The portrait is surely recognizable despite being zoomed and indistinct. Printed this way, the edition could be considered a memorial to the author
This poetry collection became one of the last editions prepared by Mayakovsky. The collection was handed over to the publishing house on February 12, 1929, but was only published after the author’s death. Mayakovsky committed suicide in April 1930. The last year of his life was vague, just like this portrait. In 1930, Mayakovsky was often ill. He was described in newspapers as a “poputchik” [i.e. not truly proletarian; a vacillating intellectual supporter of the Communist party]. The long-awaited exhibition Twenty Years of Work was ignored by the prominent writers and the party leadership. In March, the premiere of the play Banya [i.e. The Bathhouse] received little success and The Bedbug was also expected to fail. On April 9, Mayakovsky’s reading of At the Top of My Voice was shouted down and criticized by a student crowd.
Published in late April 1930, this edition heralded the period when Mayakovsky began to be regarded as “the most talented poet of the Soviet epoch.” In these poems, he was severe upon the Soviet bureaucracy. Titles of some poems are harsh and offensive. The poet actively attacked “the cult of papers” and the increasing number of officials. Another example of such poems is “Conversation with a Tax Collector About Poetry” (1926).
Worldcat shows copies located in Harvard University, Getty Institute, Amherst and Smith Colleges, NYPL.