With a fine original watercolour

POUCHKINE, Alexandre and Boris ZWORYKINE (artist) [PUSHKIN and ZVORYKIN]

Boris Godounov

Publication: Paris, L'édition d'art, H. Piazza, [1927].

POUCHKINE, Alexandre and Boris ZWORYKINE (artist) [PUSHKIN and ZVORYKIN], Boris Godounov

One of the great productions of the Parisian Russian artists – this one from the “tirage de tête” on Japon with a watercolour by Zworykine.

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Our Notes & References

Fine example of the deluxe version on japon impérial -№24 of only 35 copies- with an original watercolour by Zvorykin and two additional suites, one in colour, like in the book, the other in black and white; the total print run was 995 copies.

Zvorykin (1872 – 1942) was a Russian artist, graphic designer, icon painter, and translator. In 1915, along with other major Russian artists (Bilibin, Vasnetsov, Makovsky, Nesterov, Roerich), he founded the “Society for the Revival of Artistic Rus”, an organization that aimed “to spread a wide acquaintance with ancient Russian art in all its manifestations” – an aim very visible throughout his style and especially in his Boris Godounov, in sharp contrast with Shukhaev’s own Godounov published just two years earlier by the competing publishing house of J. Schiffrin. Zvorykin here placed half-titles and text within decorative frames in the Old Russian style featuring vyaz’ typography, taken from old Cyrillic (Church) calligraphy.

In 1917-18 Zvorykin collaborated with Chekhonin and Benois, illustrating children’s books, before emigrating to Paris in 1921. He began there a fruitful cooperation with the Piazza publishing house, reaching its peak with this colourful Boris Godounov, in which Zvorykin beautifully integrated text and illustrations and developed complex ornamental compositions.

The first Russian tragedy with a political theme, inspired by Shakespeare.

Boris Godunov is Pushkin’s only complete dramatic work. He wrote it in 1825 and was extremely satisfied with it: on its completion, he wrote to Viazemskii in November 1825: “My tragedy is over; I read it aloud, alone, and clapped my hands and shouted, What a Pushkin, what a son of a bitch!”. Among the play’s dramatis personae, Pushkin included one of his distant ancestors, Afanasii Mikhailovich Pushkin.

The commercial success of the first edition was instant: the bookseller Smirdin sold over 400 copies on the first day in 1831; a success described by the young Gogol in one of his early articles, “Boris Godunov. An Epic by Pushkin”.

The Russian censors were not impressed though: the play, which used a disputed theory of murder of Ivan the Terrible’s son by Godunov, wasn’t authorised on stage until 1866.


M. Krasnov (important private collector of Russian literature, Switzerland).


Cf. Smirnov-Sokolskii, Pushkin p. 258.

Item number



Physical Description

Quarto (22.7 x 26 cm). 2 blanks, [1]-135pp. inc. frontispiece with original watercolour, half-title, richly decorated title, introduction, dramatis personae, and half-title to Scene 1, 15 coloured plates, [1] limitation page, 1 blank, 30 plates incl. 15 in colour and 15 b&w, 2 blanks.


Original publisher’s dark green printed wrappers bound in contemporary dark green crushed morocco by René Kieffer (binder’s ticket and gilt signature), marbled endpapers, boards and spine gilt, top edge gilt, kept in its marbled paper slipcase.


Slight toning, little offsetting from watercolour, binding joints a bit rubbed, spine discoloured, otherwise very appealing.

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