The illustrated Lermontov : the October 2014 Slavonic item of the month

The 200th anniversary of the great Russian poet Mikhail Lermontov’s birth falls this month, as marked by library and literary blogs the world over.  In this post, we look at books produced a hundred years ago to mark the first centenary of his birth, focusing in particular on a illustrated set of his complete works.

Illustration for Lermontov's Aul Bastundzhi by Martiros San'ian (S756.b.91.6)

Illustration for Lermontov’s Aul Bastundzhi by Martiros San’ian (S756.b.91.6)

The earliest book by Lermontov held by the University Library was published in 1842; this is the first half of a two-volume set of his poems (8757.d.7-8).  The poet had already died the year before, killed outright in a duel in the Caucasus at the age of 26.  Only one collection of his poetry was published in his lifetime, in 1840; his poems had otherwise been printed in larger, shared publications.  A great deal of Lermontov’s work came out only after his untimely death, although Geroi nashego vremeni (Hero of our time), the prose novel for which he is possibly best known to Anglophone readers, had already appeared in 1840.

One hundred years ago, the centenary of Lermontov’s death was celebrated in print by a number of special issues of and about his work.  Among them was the set which is our Slavonic item of the month.  Illiustrirovannoe polnoe sobranie sochinenii M.Iu. Lermontova (The illustrated complete works of M.Iu. Lermontov; S756.b.91.1-6).  Five of the six volumes which make up this lovely set contain works by Lermontov himself.  The last contains recollections of the poet by his acquaintances and a section of critical articles on his work.  All six are liberally illustrated with pictures by a large number of various artists, including the poet himself.  Minor illustrations are printed directly on to the page, with more significant ones printed on to individual plates.

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