Moscow: Universitetskaya tipografia, 1842. 475 pp. 23x15 cm. Contemporary half leather. Some bleak water staining on the corner of first pages, pale stain on p.387, as well as the restoration of the spine, but generally a very good copy. From our experience, the condition is ‘better than usual’.
First edition. From the collection of Count Gagarin.
‘The Dead Souls’ is one of the most significant books in classical Russian literature written by Nikolay Gogol (1809-1852) in 1835-1842. The book was too
innovative and ahead of it’s time for Russian censors, so as often the case Gogol faced some difficulties when publishing. First of all the book could be labelled anti-religious, as the concept of the immortal soul is questioned right in the title. Of course ‘a soul’ in Russian meant ‘the serve’ like the ones bought by Chichikov in the poem but nevertheless the analogy is hard to miss.
Also the censors didn’t like the ‘Tale of captain Kopeikin’, that was seen as a harsh satire on the Russian bureaucracy. Gogol had to cut and edit this part of Chapter 10 to please the censors. He was quite nervous about the situation as he always thought this is one of the best parts of the novel. And still even after that the book was not given a censor’s permit. The last request was to change the title and add ‘The Adventures of Chichikov’ in front of ‘The Dead Souls’. After that was done, the book was published. Gogol managed the printing himself.
The book was met very enthusiastically: ‘‘Soon after Gogol left, The Dead Souls quickly was everywhere in Moscow and throughout Russia. The book was sold
like hot cakes’’. According to Nabokov, ‘one can savor The Dead Souls infinitely’.
Smirnov-Sokolskii 610, Kilgour 345.