Moscow: N. Shchepkin i K.Soldatenkov, 1859. Item #178
XXXII, 204, II pp. 20x13 cm. Contemporary half leather binding. Very good, rubbed binding, loss of a few small pieces of the spine, no free leaf of the back endpapers, Soviet bookshop stamp on the back pastedown.
Alexander Nikolaevich Afanasiev (1826-1871) was one of the biggest folklorists in 19th century, his works are acknowledged as classics along with The Golden Bough by J. Frazer and Primitive Culture by E. Tylor. He is best-known for the collection of Russian fairy-tales.
But later collection Russian Folk Legends wasn’t so lucky even though it considered more valuable and bibliographic rarity. The value of the work itself can’t be underestimated also – it was ground-breaking in this field and that’s one of the reasons why it was banned. Procurator A. Tolstoy, member of Synod, called for ban of the book in 1860 because author’s democratic views had influence on the selection of material. There were 33 stories about saints’ lives and Christ from people’s point of view some of which were very different from Russian Orthodox Church’s views, they were an interweaving of Christian and pagan myths. Metropolitan of Moscow Filaret called the book ‘full of blasphemy and immorality’. Censor Naumov was fired for giving the permission for this book.
The same year it was published in London by ‘Free Russia Press’ by Alexander Hertzen who usually published censored in Russia materials. According to Nikolay Berezin, the author of one of the book on Russian rarities ‘the book is hard to find because it was banned soon after it came out’. Catalogue of Russian Ilegal Press lists it as well (#114).