Our Notes & References
The first book edition of Pushkin’s best travel account, including an unpublished draft and limited to 200 copies only.
This Journey to Arzrum published by the famous dancer, choreographer and collector Sergei Mikhailovich Lifar (1905-86), was among the most important publications of Pushkiniana outside of Russia. It contains an introduction by Lifar, a detailed commentary by the Pushkin scholar M.L. Hoffmann and a facsimile of Pushkin’s notebook that Lifar acquired from a dealer in Paris. This illustration is of particular interest because it shows a handwritten introduction to A Journey to Arzrum with the first two pages crossed out and not subsequently included in Pushkin’s first publication of the novel, in the first issue of his Sovremennik in 1836. The charming wrappers were created by Rostislav Dobuzhinskii, a set designer of the Russian Drama Theatre in Paris and a son of Mstislav Dobuzhinskii, a renowned member of Mir Iskusstva.
A Journey to Arzrum is one of Pushkin’s earliest texts written in prose, and the best of his only two travel accounts, gathering observations on the characters and behaviour of local peoples (Circassians among others). It was written at a time when travelling south was becoming fashionable: local spa towns were developing rapidly as Russia was progressively subjugating these southern provinces. The trip to Arzrum for Pushkin was, however, a form of escape from his stifling condition in St. Petersburg, where he was meant to report all his movements to the Tsar’s police. Amazingly enough, he left to the south and travelled far (Arzrum is now in Turkey) without the police knowing it at first. It was during this journey when Pushkin had a poignant encounter with the convoy bringing writer Alexandr Griboedov’s mutilated body back to the Russian territory from Persia. According to Pavel Alexeev, Puteshestvie was the culmination of Pushkin’s exploration of the Eastern theme. It played an important role in shaping the image of the East in the classical Russian literature of the 19th century.
The title page mentions “second edition”, most probably implying that the 50 copies ad nominem printed in October 1934 on Holland or Japan papers constituted the “first” edition. Except for that mention on the title page, both issues are the exact same ones. After the very first 1836 publication in Sovremennik, we could not find any other book edition, except for an offprint from a journal for military students, published in 1855 and probably printed in very small quantity (the copy we traced belonged to the future tsar Alexander III).
Provenance Avenir Alexandrovich Nizoff (émigré, pianist, who lived in Edmonton, Canada, in the second half of the 20th century, and gathered a large, wide-ranging library of Russian works, especially covering art, history and literature).
Bibliography Not in Kilgour, Gubar, or Markov.Alekseev P. V. Orientalizatsia prostranstva v «Puteshestvii v Arzrum» A. S. Pushkina // Vestnik Tomskogo gosudarstvennogo universiteta, 2014. № 382, pp. 5-12.Tynianov, Yuri, O puteshestvii v Arzrum. (online)