Inscribed by the future Nobel Prize


Pod otkrytym nebom [bound with:] Stikhi i Rasskazy

[Under the Open Skies [bound with:] Poems and Short stories]

Publication: Kushnerov i Ko, Moskva and Rikhter, Moskva, 1898, 1900.

BUNIN, Ivan, Pod otkrytym nebom [bound with:] Stikhi i Rasskazy

A lovely volume with two first editions, including one inscribed by Bunin. Both works are rarely found.

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Our Notes & References

Rare first editions of Bunin’s early poetry, including his first illustrated book, inscribed by the author: the title page of Stikhi i Rasskazy bears Bunin’s inscription to Marguerite Berline, “in sign of sincere favour” (в знак искреннего расположения).

The first Russian author to win the Nobel prize in literature (in 1933), Ivan Bunin (1870-1953) began his literary work by publishing poems in small periodicals and in children’s book series. Published for Biblioteka Detskago Chtenia [Children’s Library], Pod otkrytym nebom [Under the Open Skies] was his second collection of poetry, and his third book overall, after Stikhotvorenia 1887 – 1891, published in 1891 and Na krai sveta i drugie rasskazy [To the Edge of the World and Other Stories], published in 1896.

Pod otkrytym nebom was received positively, adding to Bunin’s growing popularity. One critic wrote in the newspaper Syn otechestva: “The poems are written for children, but adults can enjoy reading them too, or at least the author of this review who when started reading it, couldn’t tear himself away until he’d finished the whole book” (28 Sept. 1898, our translation). Bunin’s poems, predominantly about nature, impressed contemporaries with their exquisite and gracious verse and sentiments. The critic continues: “the main advantage of Bunin’s poems is that you notice in them not only the cold aesthetic contemplation of the beauty of nature; you are inadvertently captivated by the passionate love for the nature of his native land, which permeates all Bunin’s poems” (our translation).

This is also the first book by Bunin with illustrations: it is adorned by various views, landscapes and other vignettes on almost every page, by a variety of artists.

The volume also contains Bunin’s third poetry book, Stikhi i Rasskazy [Poems and Short stories], considered to be the last book of his early period. Among the stories included in the collection is Kukushka – a cuckoo bird and a nickname of the protagonist – narrating about uneasy life of the Russian peasantry, whose psychology and worldviews Bunin communicates with great sympathy. Kukushka is based on Bunin’s conversations with people during his trips to Russian villages and confirms his mastery in the genre of short stories.

Both editions are rare. Worldcat locates 3 copies of each work: Pod otkrytym nebom in the British Library, Oxford and Warsaw University Library (none in the US apparently), to which we can add a copy at the RGB (Moscow) and one at RNB (St Petersburg); Stikhi i Rasskazy is held at the Library of Congress, University of Texas and Warsaw University Library, to which we can add one copy at RGB.

Like with his two earlier publications, we could not trace any example of these editions at auction outside Russia in recent decades (and no copy of Stikhi i Rasskazy in Russia either).


Marguerite Berline (Bunin’s inscription and Cyrillic initials to spine foot); David Shoenberg (Berline’s son in law; pencil gift note loosely inserted, written by Berline to Shoenmberg, a renown British physicist and a son of Isaac Shoenberg, an electronic engineer who was best known for his role in the history of television); by descent, the scholar Peter Gatrell and his wife Jane.


Not in Kilgour and Lesman, Rosanov 2391; Comments on Letter from Ivan Bunin to Yulii Bunin. October 15, 1898. (online); Dviniatina, T.M. Izdania stikhotvorenii Bunina v kritike sovremennikov. (online).

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Physical Description

Two works in one volume 8vo (20.1 x 14.5 cm). 64 pp. incl title; title, 98 pp. and [1] p. table of content.


Upper publisher’s printed and illustrated wrappers of both works bound in slightly later burgundy cloth spine over marbled boards, flat spine with earlier leather label lettered in gilt in Russian, small empty label to upper fly leaf.


Wrappers browned at edges, one with a couple of minor marginal tears; binding minimally rubbed, the spine label worn with small losses; title of second work browned at edges, otherwise block very fresh.

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