Moscow: Izdatel’stvo redaktsii «Pravdy» i Partizdata TsK VKP(b), 1935. Item #1394
, 157 pp.: ill., 24 ills. (some folding), 2 miniature pennants. 36x27 cm. In original velour binding with silver lettering and the image of an airplane on the front cover and silver lettering on the spine; in original cloth case. Illustrated endpapers. Very good condition, a tear of a transparent leaf (with map affected), p. 107-110 and one insert detached from the block. Most tissue leaves preserved.
First and only edition. One of 5,000 copies. Scarce.
An early photobook about an expedition of the ice-breaking steamer Chelyuskin, its crash, and rescue mission. Design was produced by Solomon Telingater, Nikolai Sedel’nikov, and Paula Freiberg. All of them are mostly known for their constructivist experiments in book design.
The book contains visual materials about the expedition of Chelyuskin (1933-1934) and a camp on an ice floe that the crew had to set up. The expedition was supposed to work out a scheme for delivering cargo along the Northern Sea Route. On November 4, 1933, Chelyuskin reached the Diomid Islands in the Bering Strait and was driven by ice northwards into the Chukchi Sea, from where its ice drift began. On February 13, 1934, Chelyuskin was crushed by the ice in the Chukchi Sea as a result of strong compression and sank. A total of 104 people went out onto the ice.
The mission to airlift the Chelyuskinites to safety began on March 5. Pilot A. Lyapidevsky was able to remove twelve women and children from the ice floe. The last flight that brought the remaining crew members to the mainland took place on April 13, 1934. Some pilots were unable to lift anyone from the ground due to the small carrying capacity of aircrafts, but brought food or delivered a doctor to the ice floe. The rescue of the ship’s crew from the “ice siege” was monitored by the whole country, reports were broadcast on the radio and printed in newspapers. Finally, the Chelyuskinites reached Moscow by train and were met by young pioneers with flowers.
Memoirs of the rescue operation began to appear in Soviet press from 1934 onwards. The first edition dedicated to this topic was the two-volume “A Heroic Epic. Voyage of the Chelyuskin” with the sequel “How We Saved the Chelyuskinites.” Together, these volumes contained detailed reminiscences of the expedition members and pilots: A. Liapidevskii, S. Levanevskii, M. Vodop’ianov, I. Doronin, M. Slepnev, V. Molokov, M. Babushkin, etc. In two months and 23 air routes, the pilots managed to transfer 104 people from the “ice siege”. The pilots were the first to be honored with the title Hero of the Soviet Union.
This particular book includes pictures of the expedition members, a map of the camp, drawings by participants, a folding reproduction of a wall newspaper “We Won’t Surrender in Chukchi Sea and on Drifting Ice Floes”, diary notes, and two miniature silk pennants. Most photographs were taken by members of the expedition during the winter on the ice floe, but there are also photographs of the meeting of the rescued in Moscow. Some of the photos are mounted, the rest are printed. Among the inserts are three folding leaves. A photomontage composition features pilots’ portraits and photos of their airplanes flying above. One folding map shows Soviet Arctic voyages of the 1930s. Another one demonstrates rescue air routes for the Chelyuskinites with the names of pilots indicated.
The cover of the book was made from the same material that was used to make the warm clothes of the Chelyuskin crew. The binding color exists in five versions: white, cream, blue, and two shades of gray.
The writer Lev Nikulin, who was involved in the publication of “A Heroic Epic,” wrote: “When you see how the books about the expedition and the rescue of the Chelyuskinites are made, you feel a certain embarrassment at the thought that your work as a writer is less polished and thorough than that of the superb craftspeople from the Red Proletarian printing shop.” Karasik, M. The Soviet Photobook, 1920-1941. P. 352-353.
Worldcat shows copies located in LoC, Yale, Michigan, North Carolina, Wesleyan Universities, Getty Institute, NYPL, Houston Museum of Fine Arts.