[THE FIRST BOOK BY OSIP MANDELSTAM] Kamen’: Stikhi [i.e. A Stone: Verses]
St. Petersburg: Akme [printed at the author’s expense by Iu. Mansfeld], 1913. Item #1405
, 34 pp. 21x14 cm. In original publisher’s illustrated wrappers. Spine restored, some pale stains on the covers, few pencil marks, otherwise very good.
A good copy of the first edition of the first book by one of the greatest Russian poets Osip Mandelstam (1891-1938). The publication represents a great rarity in terms of both its low print run (300 copies) and the fact that after Mandelstam’s arrest in 1938, his works were confiscated and vigorously destroyed in the USSR.
Published in 1913 at the author’s own expense, this collection of poems marked Osip Mandelstam’s debut and immediately established him in the upper echelon of Russian poets. The book contains 23 verses composed by the author in the period from 1908 to 1913, during his studies at Heidelberg, the Sorbonne, and St. Petersburg.
Mandelstam’s brother, Evgeny: “I remember the day when Osip and I went to the printing house on Mokhovaya Street and received a finished print run. The author took one pack, and I took the other. Our task was to sell the books. After long deliberation, we handed over the entire circulation to the large bookstore of Popov-Yasny. From time to time my brother sent me to find out how many copies had been sold, and when I reported that forty-two books had already been sold out, our whole family celebrated. This sounded like the first recognition of the poet by readers.”
During the era when Stone was first published, Symbolism was the dominant form of poetic expression among Russian poets. Like Mayakovsky and Khlebnikov, Mandelstam departed from this obsolete mode of expression in favor of a more direct treatment of thoughts. As a result, Stone established Osip as one of the foremost representatives of the Acmeist school.
Stone was the only collection of Mandelstam’s poems that was republished twice (1916; 1923) during the lifetime of the author. In total, Osip managed to issue 4 collections of poems, Stone (1913; 1916; 1923); Tristia (1922), Vtoraya kniga [i.e. The Second Book] (1923), Stikhotvoreniya [i.e. Poems] (1928), and 4 poetry books for children, Dva tramvaya [i.e. Two Trams] (1925), Primus (1925), Shari [i.e. Balloons] (1926), Kukhnya [i.e. A Kitchen] (1926). Although from the 1930s to the end of the 1980s, Mandelstam’s poems were banned and withdrawn from circulation, his works were still actively distributed in samizdat.