[EARLY SOVIET CHILDREN’S BOOK] Kem byt’? [i.e. Whom Shall I Be?]
Moscow: Molodaia gvardiia, 1932. 22 pp.: ill. 23,5x19,5 cm. In original constructivist wrappers. Slightly rubbed and soiled, covers and corners of pages restored, otherwise very good.
An early posthumous edition of the famous poem and a good example of the early Soviet design of children’s books.
Design was created by avant-garde artist Nisson Shifrin (1892-1961), one of the founding members of the Jewish art group Kultur-Liga. In 1918-1919, he studied at the workshop of Alexandra Exter and then in the Ukrainian Academy of Arts in 1920-1921. In the early Soviet period, Shifrin embarked on children’s book design, primarily works by Jewish writers. At the same time, he taught in VKHUTEIN, the Institute of Printing Arts and the Lunacharsky State Institute for Theatre Arts (GITIS). Later he was engaged in theatrical design, frequently collaborating with his spouse, artist Margarita Genke. In 1935-1961, he was the principal stage designer of the Central Theater of the Russian Army. In the 1940-1960s, Shifrin was involved in Soviet cinematography where he was attracted as a cameraman and artist.
The book hosts Vladimir Mayakovsky’s verses on an abundance of jobs. The poem is about a young person who is trying jobs on themselves and is deciding what occupation is better: engineer, physician, pilot, tram conductor, etc. This poem was first published shortly before the death of Mayakovsky. It was reprinted every year in various languages and quickly gained fame over the country. The 1932 edition was the last featuring illustrations by Shifrin. The artist adds contours of work clothes, suits, headwears and specific equipment to a boy. On some pages, he wears a mustache and a beard as well.
Worldcat shows copies located in Princeton and Florida Universities.