"For adults" as printed on the title page


Vlast Tmy

[The Power of Darkness]

Publication: Sytin, Moskva, 1887.

TOLSTOY, Lev, Vlast Tmy

Tolstoy the playwright, with a play forbidden for the stage during some years. A fresh example of the first edition.

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Our Notes & References

The first edition of the play “The Power of Darkness”, which was forbidden by the tsarist censorship for the stage until 1895. The only play by Tolstoy in Lesman’s great literature collection.

The play was based on the criminal case of a peasant from the Tula province, Efrem Koloskov, whom Tolstoy visited in prison. According to the materials of the criminal case, considered in the Tula district court, Koloskov was convicted for the murder of the baby whom he had from his own stepdaughter. Alexander III, after hearing the play being read for the Royal family, called it “A marvellous piece!”. In 1888, before the play was staged in Russia, it appeared in major European theatres, including “Theatre libre” in Paris, under the title “La Puissance des Tenebres”. The social focus of the play links it to the exploration of working classes by Hugo and Zola, the writers Tolstoy greatly admired.


Sir Isaac Shoenberg (1880-1963, a British electronic engineer of Belarus descent best known for his contribution to the development of the first fully electronic television system); by descent, the scholar Peter Gatrell and his wife Jane; acquired directly from their estate.


Lesman 2252.

Item number



Physical Description

Octavo (17 x 11.5 cm). 108 pp. including title.


Later crushed brown morocco spine over burgundy peble-grained cloth, slat spine lettered in gilt, small empty gilt paper frame pasted to upper fly-leaf.


Spine a bit rubbed and scratched, title with small figures in pencil and lightly browned, otherwise excellent.

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