Imperial copy in red morocco

RALSTON, William Ralston Shedden

The Songs of the Russian People, as Illustrative of Slavonic Mythology and Russian Social Life

Publication: Ellis and Green, London, 1872.

RALSTON, William Ralston Shedden, The Songs of the Russian People, as Illustrative of Slavonic Mythology and Russian Social Life

The Tsarskoe Selo copy, bound in red morocco, of this ground-breaking study written by a scholar, at some point librarian at the British Museum and famous for its interest in Russia.

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The beautiful and fresh Tsarskoe Selo copy of this key work by the century’s most important promoter of Russian letters in Britain.

William Rolston (1828-89) was a prominent British scholar and translator, whose passion for ending British ignorance about Russia earned him the nickname ‘Russian Don Quixote’. Ralston’s Krylov and his Fables, published in 1869, ‘was a landmark in the reception of Russian literature in Britain’ (DNB); he also championed Tolstoy, and Turgenev, who considered Ralston’s translation of his Dvorianskoe Gnezdo the best translation ever made of any work of his.

In this fundamental work, Ralston presents and analyses songs from Russia and its neighbouring Slavic regions, elaborating on the Slavic mythology, traditions, folklore and ethnography. Through this engaging study, Ralston approaches a wide range of aspects of pre-industrial Slavic peasant life, including weddings, funerals, witchcraft, demonology, games, riddles, and seasonal traditions. He at the same time compares various topics of Russian pagan culture and beliefs with those from Vedic or Germanic mythology, rendering his work a multicultural value. This edition published in the same year as the first, and was later used for a number of further editions of the book.


Tsarskoe Selo (title stamp, pencilled shelf marks: ’29/3′, ’13/6′, and ’13/7′, the first two of these cancelled); CR (small monogramme stamped to upper flyleaf); Alex Rabinovich, New York; Private collection (sold in Christie’s London, 29 Nov. 2012, Lot 105, to:); Prof. Philip Longworth (1933-2021, historian and writer, esp. on Russian history).

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Physical Description

Octavo (21.5 x 13.8 cm). 1 blank leaf, XVI incl. half title, title, preface and table of content, 447 pp., 1 blank leaf.


Contemporary red straight-grained morocco, sides with gilt double fillet borders, spine gilt in compartments, title in gilt, gilt edges, floral decorations to turn-ins corners, marbled endpapers.


Extremities very lightly rubbed, otherwise excellent condition.

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