WWI caricatures in ancient style

USPENSKII, Vasilii Ivanovich

Letopisets v litsakh o Tevtonstey brani na sloveni

[Chronicle of the Teutonic War on the Slavs]

Publication: Bussel, Petrograd, [1915-16].

USPENSKII, Vasilii Ivanovich, Letopisets v litsakh o Tevtonstey brani na sloveni

Complete set of this unusual war satire, written and illustrated in ancient Russian style. Rare when handcoloured, as here.

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An unusual war satire: complete set of this humorous chronicle written and illustrated in an ancient, 16th-c. Russian style, developing a “mockumentary” of the early years of WWI and ridiculing Germany, Austria, their emperors and some of their most prominent people, such as Zeppelin, the industrialist and weapon-maker Krupp and Bertha, his daughter and famous heiress. It starts in particular with a caricatural description of the peaceful and brave Slavs vs. the drunk, violent and sausage-making Teutons. The rest focuses on the chronology of the war, adding the occasional expected hyperbole. For example, at the start of the war, the cat-looking Wilhelm-the-Moustache is described on a mission to destroy the Slavs and to capture “the wives of friazi”, an Old Russian word for the Italians and the French (but here meaning solely the French), in order to improve the quality of the German race. The reader won’t be spared a caricature of German women, “fat, ugly, and frigid”. Further on, the “sea-faring nation of the Brits” is credited with starting “the custom of shaving beards”; we also learn that the Japanese are “naturally law-abiding”.

This work is rather unusual in Uspenskii’s corpus. A rare book collector himself, he dedicated most of his life to history and books. He published a great number of manuscripts, including those from state libraries and private collections, often including his own commentaries.

Rarely found coloured as here and complete of all three parts. We could trace only three complete copies outside Russia, none in Europe (Harvard, Kansas University and Stanford), possibly a fourth in Jordanville. The RNB has at least one copy, and their record makes reference to a copy in the RGB. Princeton and Cambridge seem to have only one part of the three.


Shilov, F. Zapiski starogo knizhnika, Moscow, 1959, p. 111.

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Physical Description

Pamphlet (24 x 19 cm), 3 vols. 16, 16, 16 pp., lithographed text with illustrations, vol. 1 and 3 coloured by hand, those vols. unopened.


Publisher’s printed wrappers, two handcoloured.


Slightly soiled, otherwise in excellent condition.

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