On the way to the New World

MAIAKOVSKII, Vladimir [MAYAKOVSKY] and David BURLIUK

Otkrytie Ameriki

[Discovery of America]

Publication: New York, New World Press, [1925].

MAIAKOVSKII, Vladimir [MAYAKOVSKY] and David BURLIUK, Otkrytie Ameriki

Rare first edition of Mayakovsky’s poem, illustrated by Burliuk, here in a fine, pleasant copy.

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£1,850

In stock

Our Notes & References

First publication of the poem “Christopher Columbus”, illustrated by the famous futurist artist and Maykovsky’s friend. One of only three works published by Mayakovsky in the US; scarce: Worldcat locates only four physical copies (Harvard (2), Penn State, University of Notre Dame), to which we can add one copy at RNB and one at the Slavonic Library in Prague. We could not trace any other copy at auction in the West, and only three in Russia.

“Mayakovsky was very fond of this little book; it was always on the bookshelf of the desk in his room on Lubyanka lane” (Mayakovsky museum, our translation here and below).

The leading poet of Revolutionary Russia, Vladimir Mayakovsky (1893-1930) attempted to get to the States three times: twice his visa was rejected and the third time he managed to obtain a visa to Mexico first. On 21 June 1925, Mayakovsky departed the French port of Saint-Nazaire for Mexico on the transatlantic ship “Espagne”. The present poem “Khristofor Kolomb” [“Christopher Columbus”] was written aboard, its typewritten copy being dated “7.VII. Atlantic Ocean.” In a letter to his lover and muse Lilia Brik from 3 July, Mayakovsky reported: “I have to write poems about Christopher Columbus, which is very hard, because without Odessians here it is difficult to figure out the diminutive of Christopher. And to rhyme Columbus (which is already difficult) in the tropics is a heroic deed”.

Upon his arrival in Mexico later in July, Mayakovsky sent the poem to Brik for publication in the futurist journal LEF [“Levyi Front Iskusstv”, “Left Front of the Arts”], which was edited by the poet himself. At that time, LEF however ceased its publications and the poem did not come out. Meanwhile, Mayakovsky entered the US and reached New York on July 30. There he had a momentous encounter with his friend and poet David Burliuk who illustrated and published the poem in a separate edition titled Otkrytie Ameriki [Discovery of America] in October 1925, while Mayakovsky was travelling through the country.

This edition shouldn’t be confused with the other, very similar title ‘Moe Otkrytie Ameriki’ [My Discovery of America], a 1926 Russian publication relating Mayakovsky’s travel itself and published upon his return: Mayakovsky indeed reached Moscow on 22 November 1925 after 6 months of travelling — the longest journey in his life.

The poem curiously asserts that Columbus was Jewish, and the edition even includes an epigraph “Christopher [Kolumb] was Christopher [Kolomb] the Spanish Jew. From Journals”, possibly added by Burliuk (see Khardzhiev). The Russian spelling of Columbus’ name as “Kolomb” is unusual and “most likely comes from the American pronunciation of the great traveller’s name” (Kozhinov); the poem’s earlier version from the letter to Brik had the conventional spelling “Kolumb”. All the subsequent authorised publications of the poem, such as in Krasnaia gazeta [Red Newspaper] (#270, 6 November, 1925) and Parizhskii vestnik [Paris Herald] (#162, 13 November, 1925), used the New York edition’s spelling as an example.

David Burliuk (1882-1967) was a Ukrainian poet, artist and one of the leading figures of Russian futurism and avant-garde. Together with Mayakovsky and other poets he formed the Gileia (also Hylaea) art group, the most leftist and experimental one among futurists, publishing avant-garde almanacs and staging futurist plays. In 1920 he immigrated to Japan and two years later settled in New York where he was active in pro-Soviet groups.

Provenance

Mikhail Krasnov (notable collector of Russian literature).

Bibliography

Turchinskii. p. 346; Lesman. No. 1501.

Kozhinov V. V., Robin I. L., Timofeeva V. V. Primechaniia // Maiakovskii V. V. Polnoe sobranie sochinenii: V 13 t. Moskva, Gos. izd-vo hudozh. lit., 1955-1961. T. 7. Stikhotvoreniia vtoroi poloviny 1925 — 1926 goda i ocherki ob Amerike.

Gosudarstvennyi muzei V. V. Maiakovskogo, “Otkrytie Ameriki. New York”.

Item number

2601

 

Physical Description

Octavo (19 x 14 cm). Portrait frontispiece, 10 pp.

Binding

Publisher’s illustrated wrappers by Burliuk.

Condition

Wrappers slightly rubbed and stained on the upper margin of the upper cover, but overall a fine example.

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