Zionism in lovely art-nouveau wrapper

SAPIR, I[osif] B[erkovich]

Sionizm. Nauchno-populiarnoe izlozhenie sushchnosti i istorii sionisticheskago dvizheniia

[Zionism. Scientifico-Popular Study of the Essence and History of the Zionist Movement]

Publication: Pirozhnikov, Vilna [i.e. Vilnius], 1903.

SAPIR, I[osif] B[erkovich], Sionizm. Nauchno-populiarnoe izlozhenie sushchnosti i istorii sionisticheskago dvizheniia

Fine summary of the Zionist question at an important time for the movement. A very good copy of the true first edition.

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Our Notes & References

First edition of this successful summary of Zionism, published when the question was actively debated: Herzl, who would die the following year, was leading major negotiations in 1903, the Kishinev pogrom happened in April 1903, followed by the 6th Zionist Congress in August. Such was the success of Sapir’s work, that it saw two more editions within 6 months (see below) as well as a translation in German and one in Hebrew that same year.

An Odessa-born Jewish social activist, writer and doctor of medicine, Iosif Sapir (1869-1935) was an ardent proponent of Zionist ideas as a response to the hardening discrimination of the Jewish people in the Russian Empire. Just after his successful Zionism, he published the weekly Zionist magazine Kadima (1906-07) and the newspaper Jewish Thought (1906-07) in Odessa. During the later pogroms of 1918-1921, he was among the leaders of the committee established to help pogrom victims. In 1917, he headed the Odessa branch of Jewish National Fund and later was elected a chairman of the Zionist Organization in southern Russia. From 1920 to 1925 he lived in Kishinev (Chisinau), then emigrated to Palestine and headed a department at a hospital in Jerusalem.

With his “scientifico-popular study” of Zionism, Sapir won the publisher’s competition to issue “the most accessible”, yet “extensive review of Zionism and its history, development, goals and aspirations”.

Wide-ranging and rather exhaustive in spite of its small format, Sapir’s book includes chapters on “Spiritual slavery”, “Political and civil status of Jews in the West and East”, “The consequences of anti-Semitism for Jews in Europe”, “Economic and physical conditions of Jewish life”, “Creation of the territorial centre in Palestine and physical conditions of the country”, “Colonisation of Palestine”, “The feasibility of Zionism”, “Zionism and progress”, “Currents in Zionism”, “Political Zionism and world congresses”, and “Duties of a Zionist”.

The book includes an introduction by the prominent Jewish writer and public figure Moshe Leib Lilienblum (1843-1910) and a 10-page long list of remarks and bibliographical resources on the subject, from Spinoza to Nordau and Herzl.

This scarcer first edition is characterised by the censor’s approval date: September 1902; Pirozhnikov produced both reeditions, indicated as such on their title pages, with the third one showing a censor’s date of June 1903. Both reeditions reused the lovely art-deco wrapper of our first edition, together with art-deco friezes at the head of each chapter.

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Physical Description

Octavo (20 x 13.6 cm). Title, V [but actually VI], 210, [2, t.o.c. and errata] pp.


Original publisher’s decorated upper wrapper bound in recent tan half-calf over brown cloth, flat spine lettered in gilt, gilt fillets to covers.


Wrapper stained and restored in gutter; some staining or soiling at beginning, the odd spot afterwards, small handwritten notes to lower margin of first leaves mostly neatly erased, last leaves with repairs to lower margin, affecting only a few figures of the errata.

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