Russian Literature Library

Lindsay Drummond Ltd. (London, UK)
Series dates: 1945-1947
Size: 5″ x 7.25″

Formerly a director at the publisher Allen Lane, Lindsay Drummond started his own firm in 1938 and published books until 1949, when he died. Ernest Benn Ltd. was, in 1950, supplying Drummond titles and may have taken over the firm (or at least its stock of titles).

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The Russian Literature Library was published for a few years in the late 1940s. Only 10 titles were published (plus one withdrawn title, see list at the end of this entry). The series was edited by Stefan Schimanski who developed the series of translations for Routledge. The directors there were slow to approve the series and Schimanski took the series, himself, and his translators to Drummond, who issued the series of translations beginning in 1945 (A People Passing Rude: British Responses to Russian Culture, 2012, p. 196, note 23).

One title issued as #8 in the series in 1947 was Three Russian Poets, Selections from Pushkin, Lermontov and Tyutchev. The title was published by New Directions in the U.S. in 1944 with Vladimir Nabokov noted as the translator and author of introduction prepared for each poet. In 1948 Nabokov complained that the translations (with accompanying introductions) had been purchased from him (he was hoping for a UK publication of the translations) and published by Drummond in the Russian Literature Series under Schimanski’s name (Vladimir Nabokov: Selected Letters 1940-1977, p. 83-84). Nabokov also complained about the “entirely awful and out-of-place illustrations” used in the book. Copies of the Three Russian Poets title with the Drummond imprint are scarce and Drummond seems to have withdrawn and replaced Three Russian Poets with another title (by Pushkin) as #8 in the series. Technically then, there were 11 titles in the series.

This 1945 copy of Ivan Turgenev’s Poems in Prose dates to the initial year of the series. Jackets are unique to each title, with the illustrations by Donia Nachshen, the same illustrator Nabokov complained about with regard to the Three Russian Poets title in the series. The series name and serial number (in this case, #2) are at the bottom of the jacket front. The front flap contains a prospectus for the series. The goals are to “give a continuous picture of Russian life throughout the nineteenth century up to the present day” by selecting “the shorter works of the great masters which are generally little-known but are complete in themselves.” The Russian Literature Series, then, seems to be emulating other short, hardcover series of the time (such as Zodiac Books). The Turgenev volume is blurbed on the lower part of the front jacket flap. The price, 5s., is also included on the front jacket flap.

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The rear of the jacket contains a dour illustration of Turgenev himself. The rear flap advertises a book by Mexican author Mauricio Magdaleno, primarily known as a screenwriter.

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Bindings of the slight volumes are in red cloth. The book has gold stamping on the spine as well as the illustration of the author on the front of the book.

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The half-title page:

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Facing the title page is a list of the first six titles in the series. The two color title page includes the date of publication.

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The copyright page includes the date of publication, illustrator, translator (Evgenia Schimanskaya), and indication of the book conforming to war-time standards, and information on the printer.

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Titles in the Russian Literature Library include:

1. Gogol: Diary of a Madman (1945)
2. Turgenev: Poems in Prose (1945)
3. Dostoyevsky: Three Tales (1945)
4. Pasternak: Selected Poems (1946)
5. Blok: The Spirit of Music (1946)
6. Remizov: On a Field Acre (1946)
7. Pushkin: Tales of Bielkin (1947)
8a. Three Russian Poets, Selections from Pushkin, Lermontov and Tyutchev (1947)
8b. Pushkin: Poems (1947)
9. Andreev: Seven Who Were Hanged (1947)

Title number 8 was initially Three Russian Poets, with the misattribution  which outraged Nabokov. Copies of this title do exist, but seem to be scarce, suggesting the title was recalled after being published and replaced with the Pushkin title.