War and Peace before War and Peace


Tysiacha vosemsot piatyi god

[The Year One Thousand Eight Hundred and Five]

Publication: Moskva, Katkov, 1865-66.

TOLSTOY, Lev, Tysiacha vosemsot piatyi god

The very first publication of any part of Tolstoy’s masterpiece ‘War and Peace’.

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Our Notes & References

Tolstoy’s first editing of the first two parts of War and Peace; the earliest appearance in print of the celebrated novel.

At the beginning of 1863, Tolstoy begins writing a novella about the fate of a Decembrist. During this work, Tolstoy delves into the more global topic of Decembrism as a socio-historical phenomenon and shifts his narrative to the Napoleonic Wars and the events of 1805-1807 which, according to the writer, formed the generation of the future participants of the Decembrists revolt in 1825.

By the end of 1864, the first part of the novel that would later become War and Peace was almost completely ready. In October 1864, Tolstoy writes a letter to Mikhail Katkov, founder of Russkii Vestnik periodical, offering to publish his new work for a very high, unprecedented fee at the time — 300 rubles per printed page. Katkov, after long negotiations, agrees to these terms because Tolstoy was already very popular among readers and the publication of such a writer could significantly increase the potential number of subscribers to the periodical.

By the time of these negotiations, Tolstoy still had not had in mind the full storyline of his saga. Neither he had given the title ‘War and Peace’ to his work: in letters of the time, he calls it “a novel from the time of Alexander’s wars with Napoleon” (our translation).

This volume gathers the complete collection of thirty-eight chapters of the first part and twenty-four chapters of the second part of the novel that appeared in the issues 1 and 2 of Russkii Vestnik of the year 1865 and in the issues 2 – 5 of the year 1866 – this is all that was published before the longer ‘War and Peace’ which we know now, under this title.

The first part was titled ” Tysiacha vosemsot piatyi god” (The year 1805) perhaps by the magazine’s editors whose suggestion Tolstoy accepted. It was divided into three sub-parts ‘V Peterburge’ (In Petersburg), ‘V Moskve’ (In Moscow) and ‘V Derevne’ (In the Country), ending with Prince Andrei Bolkonsky’s departure for the war. The second part under the title “1805 god. Chast vtoraia. Voina” (Second part. War) describes the military events from the beginning of the war in 1805 to the Battle of Schöngraben.

This first serialized edition from Russkii vestnik thus demonstrates Tolstoy’s first version of the celebrated novel, different from the standard text, augmented later. Over the next couple years, Tolstoy writes the third and the fourth parts of the book and decides to publish all four parts under the title War and Peace in a separate edition instead of collaborating with Russkii vestnik for monetary reasons. This edition was expected to be published in 1867, with the first two parts almost unchanged, but to the horror of his new editor and publisher P. Bartenev, Tolstoy, instead of approving of the last editors’ corrections, consistently rewrote large blocks of his text, adding new paragraphs in the margins after the latest version of the text was typed. In response to Bartenev’s reproaching letters, the writer wrote: “I can’t help rewriting it the way I do! I’m not afraid of the bill from the print shop” (our translation).

The volume ends with an excerpt of Georg Korb’s celebrated diary translated into Russian and relating part of his stay in Peter the Great’s Russia, especially mentioning the Streltsy uprising and cruel repression of the spring and summer 1698. He was the first foreigner to do so.

This edition is rather unusual and does not often appear on the market. We could trace only one complete copy at an auction, in Russia.


Kiiatskii (?, pre-revolutionary blue ink stamp to title of an issue).


Tsiavlovskii M. A. Kak pisalsia i pechatalsia roman “Voina i Mir” pp. 129 – 174 in Tolstoi o Tolstom, issue 3, Moskva, 1927.

Benderskii, Ilya. Istoriia izdanii Voiny I Mira // Voina I mir: ot zamisla k mify

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Physical Description

Two parts in extracts of five issues, in one volume 8vo (19.7 x 13 cm). Issue 1, 1865: title, 48 – 156 pp.; issue 2, 1865: 574 – 627 pp.; issue 2, 1866: 763 – 814, [2] pp.; issue 3, 1866: half-title, title, 311 – 689 pp.; issue 4, 1866: 690- 758, [2] pp.


Modern dark-blue calf spine over marbled boards, spine with raised bands, gilt ornament in compartments, two red morocco labels with gilt lettering.


First 3 ll. cleaned, a quire (pp. 129 – 146) misbound, a few small wormholes in first issue, occasional light spotting, closed tears to pp.687 – 690 repaired with sellotape.

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