Bound as a single volume, a rare and near-complete full set of the original, parts issue of Pushkin’s satire on contemporary Russian society, his verse novel Eugene Onegin, was sold for £95,000 in that November 27 Russian books and manuscripts auction.
With the exception of Pt II, which was an essentially identical 1832 reprint, all were first-issue copies of 1825-30, but only last summer, in the same rooms, a complete set in which that scarce first part was present in the original printed wrappers sold at £380,000.
In that same summer sale an 1831- 32 first of Nikolai Gogol’s first masterpiece, a two-volume collection of comical tales of provincial life known in English as Evenings on a Farm near Dikanka, had sold at £140,000. On November 27 another copy brought a bid of £50,000.
Sold for a record £140,000 was an important association copy of the first book of poems by the man many regard as Russia’s greatest 20th century poet, Osip Emilevich Mandelshtam.
This was a copy of Kamen (Stone) of 1913 that remained on his own bookshelves until just a few years before his death in the 1930s, when he inscribed it for the critic and literary historian Serge Rudakov.
The latter had lived with the poet and his wife for 18 months during their exile and became a crucial figure in those years when few people dared to risk such a connection. In her memoirs, Nadezhda Mandelshtam records how she memorised many of her husband’s poems during that time and entrusted others to Rudakov.
Sold at £65,000 rather than the suggested £5000 or so was a presentation copy of the 1914 first edition of Anna Akhmatova’s second published collection of poems, Chetki (Rosary). It was one that she gave to the Assyriologist Vladimir Kazimirovich Shileiko, the man who later become her second husband.
Valued at £1500 or so, a presentation copy of the 1923 second, enlarged edition of another of her collections, Anno Domini, was bid to £40,000. It was inscribed for the writer Pavel Luknitsky, a friend and the biographer of Nikolai Gumilev, her first husband.
Another book of poems features among the accompanying illustrations, but not all the highlights were literary ones.
One of the sale’s other big surprises was the bid of £100,000, rather than a suggested £3000-5000, needed to secure two lithographed and linen mounted scrolls that offer a now rare ‘Panorama of Nevsky Prospect’ in St Petersburg that seems never before to have come to auction.
Dated 1830 and 1835, the cased scrolls are a little under 8in (20.5cm) deep and the longest of them, which has 16 segments to the other’s 14, is over 25ft long. The views are based on drawings by Vasilii Semenovich Sadovnikov.
Encased in an elaborate silver binding centred by a view of a theatre that was used on the catalogue cover, a pictorial tribute book of 1873, dedicated to the actress Madame Naptal-Arnault, made £26,000. It contains 16 finely painted representations (on eight panels) by Adolf Iosifovich Charlemagne of some of her many stage appearances.
Sold at £32,000 was a copy of the first separately printed issue of Nikolai Lobachevsky’s monograph on the foundations of calculus and real analysis.
A complete issue of the 1835 Kazan University journal that contained the original publication of this Method of ascertaining the convergence of infinite series… had sold as the previous lot for £14,000.
The author, a pioneer of in the field of non-Euclidean geometry, was many years later to gain international fame of a very different kind when he came the subject of one of the many amusing songs written and performed by the Harvard mathematical professor and musical satirist, Tom Lehrer.