SHEKSPIR, Uilliam [William SHAKESPEARE] and Aleksandr SOKOLOVSKII (translator)

Son v letniuiu noch [bound with] Iulii Tsezar

[A Midsummer Night's Dream [bound with] Julius Caesar]

Publication: Landau, Skt. Peterburg, 1885.

SHEKSPIR, Uilliam [William SHAKESPEARE] and Aleksandr SOKOLOVSKII (translator), Son v letniuiu noch [bound with] Iulii Tsezar

Two first editions in one volume, by the man who translated all Shakespeare’s significant plays for the first time. A pleasant example of this rarity: no other copy traced outside Russia.

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Our Notes & References

First edition of each of these notable translations by Sokolovskii, famous for having translated the whole Shakespeare canon in Russian for the first time.

Very rare: no copies on Worldcat nor at auctions. In Russian collections, we could locate only one copy of A Midsummer Night’s Dream (Bakhrushin Theater Museum); the copy listed at the RNB catalogue appears to be missing since 1949; and three copies of Julius Caesar (RNB (2) and RGB).

Aleksandr Lukich Sokolovskii (1837—1915) “went down in history as the first Russian translator to produce and publish verse translations of 37 plays, the entire so-called ‘Shakespearean canon'” (Gaydin). He travelled to England to learn about the literature of Shakespeare’s epoch and his first publications, and to Stratford to study the life and mores of old England. His 30-year long work culminated in a multi-volume edition of all his translations of Shakespeare, extensively annotated by the author, and published in 1894-98. A member of the Russian Astronomical Society and the Russian Physical Society, Sokolovskii also organised popular readings for young women from his circle on astronomy, geology and other natural sciences (Belitskaia) and published the Entsiklopediia dlia iunoshestva [Encyclopedia for Youth].

Shakespeare’s “most popular and [most] widely performed” play (Kopf), A Midsummer Night’s Dream had comparatively few appearances in Russian print: Sokolovskii’s translation follows the poet Fedor Tiutchev’s translation of a couple of its fragments (1833) and three complete translations by Ivan Roskovshenko in 1841, Nikolai Satin in 1851, and Apollon Grigoriev in 1857.

The volume also includes Julius Caesar: it is the first book edition of the play in Russian and its third poetic Russian translation, after Afanasii Fet’s (1859) and Dmitrii Mikhalovskii’s (1864). There was also a translation in prose by Nikolai Karamzin in 1787 but as a tragedy about the murder of the sovereign, it soon came under suspicion and was purged in 1794.

Sokolovskii advocated for the language of his Shakespeare to be “first and foremost comprehensive and colloquial” (Sokolovskii, introduction to his multi-volume edition, our translation, here and elsewhere), and thus his translations appear to be more accessible than the ones by his predecessors. Some later scholars however find them, “despite their literary merits, […] too wordy […] and not precise enough in the selection of linguistic equivalents; in a number of cases he adds not only words, but even imagery and comparisons that are absent in the original” (Zakharov).


Mikhail Georgievich Dmitriev (ex-libris stamp on upper endpaper); pencil inscription in Georgian on upper endpaper “Congratulations on the 1st of May, 1943. Live long with your wife and children. But without me” (!).


Belitskaia, A. P., “Sokolovskii Aleksandr Lukich” // Russkie pisateli, 1800-1917: Biograficheskii slovar / gl. red. P. A. Nikolaev. Moskva, Bolshaia rossiiskaia entsiklopediia, 2007. T.5, pp.715-717.

Kopf, Dan,”What Is Shakespeare’s Most Popular Play?”, Priceonomics, 22 September 2016.

Zakharov, N. V., “Nachalo kulturnoi assimiliatsii Shekspira v Rossii”, Entsiklopediia “Mir Shekspira”.

Zakharov, N. V., “Vkhozhdenie Shekspira v russkii kulturnyi tezaurus”, Problemy filologii, kulturologii, iskusstvovedeniia, #1, 2007.

Dmitriev, A. P., “Shekspirovskie perevody Apollona Grigorieva: tvorcheskaia laboratoriia, tsenzurnaia istoriia, kriticheskie otsenki”, Dva veka russkoi klassiki, Tom 4, #3, Pushkinskii Dom, 2022.

Gaydin, ​​B. N., “Digital Tools for Comparative Thesaurus Analysis of Russian Translations of W. Shakespeare’s Works: Results of the First Year”, Gorizonty gumanitarnogo znaniia, #6, 2017.

Item number



Physical Description

Two works in one volume 8vo. 79 pp. incl. title; 100 pp. incl. half-title and title.


Contemporary black quarter calf, black cloth boards with blind stamped ornamental frames, spine with raised bands and gilt fillets, marbled edges.


Binding a bit rubbed and stained, restorations to spine; marginal closed tears to first leaves and a few other ones, occasional light foxing, more pronounced at beginning and last page, otherwise pleasantly fresh internally.

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