A most famous edition, with literary provenance


Doktor Zhivago

Publication: Feltrinelli, Milan, [1959].

PASTERNAK, Boris, Doktor Zhivago

A very good example of this important edition of the Nobel Prize laureate, with literary provenance.

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An important edition of the Nobel Prize laureate, with provenance.

First Feltrinelli edition in Russian (the third overall), first printing, issued in the attractive and distinctive dust jacket designed by Ampelio Tettamanti (1914-1961), matching that of the first edition, published in Italian by Feltrinelli in 1957.

Doktor Zhivago was deemed unfit for publication within the Soviet Union due to certain passages that were perceived as anti-Soviet. It was therefore first published in Italian by Feltrinelli in 1957 after Pasternak signed a contract with him on 30 June 1956, granting the Italian publisher the copyright for translation. This edition was published in late April or early May 1959, and is preceded by the almost unobtainable, CIA-sponsored edition (September 1958) and the US edition, published in Michigan in plain cloth without a dust jacket (January 1959).

The history of the book’s publication in Russian is somewhat tangled: the first edition in Russian was printed by the Dutch publisher Mouton under Feltrinelli’s imprint but without Feltrinelli’s permission, as part of a covert CIA publishing and propaganda program, and the US edition was likewise intended to be published without acknowledgement of Feltrinelli’s copyright. However, after the legal furore surrounding the publication of the Dutch edition, that decision was reversed, and the US edition in Russian was subsequently published with Feltrinelli’s full consent and collaboration. Feltrinelli intended to publish this edition concurrently with the US publication, but due to printing delays his book was not published in Italy until four months after it appeared in the US.

The book earned Pasternak the Nobel Prize for literature. The award was offered in mid-October 1958, but before the end of the month, under intense pressure from the Soviet authorities, Pasternak was forced to reject it.

A very good example, with provenance: from the library of Aleksandr Dolberg (1933-2021), aka David Burg, who spent most of his life in the UK after having emigrated from the USSR in 1956. A man of letters, he wrote many literary articles and presented various radio programmes in the West (including the BBC), usually linked with literature, émigrés and the USSR. He published the first English translation of Solzhenitsyn’s Cancer Ward (in collaboration with Nicholas Bethell, 4th Baron Bethell) and fought constantly against the accusation of being a Soviet agent. He co-authored (with George Feifer) Solzhenitsyn: A Biography (1972). Among his friends were dissidents Andrei Sinyavsky and Igor Golomstock.


Acquired directly from the estate of Aleksandr Dolberg (1933-2021), aka David Burg.


Solzhenitsyn, Aleksandr. Between Two Millstones, Book 1: Sketches of Exile, 1974–1978. University of Notre Dame Press, 2018; Reddaway, Peter. The Dissidents: A Memoir of Working with the Resistance in Russia, 1960-1990. Brookings Institution Press, 2020.

Zholkovskii, A. Naprasnye sovershenstva i drugie vinietki. Redaktsiia Eleny Shubinoi, 2020.

Item number



Physical Description

Octavo. Original pale green boards, titles to spine and front board in black. With the dust jacket designed by Ampelio Tettamanti.


Dust-jacket a bit brittle, with a few marginal tears, sometimes with small losses, boards a bit sunned at edges and spine, upper block edge with small foxing; page edges a bit browned.

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