"ONE OF THE GREAT NOVELS OF WORLD LITERATURE": VERY RARE FIRST EDITION OF TOLSTOY'S WAR AND PEACE, AN EXTRAORDINARY COPY
TOLSTOY, Leo. Voina i Mir (War and Peace). Moscow: Printed by T. Ris for the House of Voyikova, 1868-69. Six volumes bound in three. Octavo, 20th-century three-quarter brown morocco-gilt, raised bands, earlier marbled boards; original printed front wrappers for parts 2-5 bound in. $48,500.
Rare first edition of Tolstoy’s War and Peace, one of the greatest novels ever written, in the original Russian. Handsomely bound, with the original printed paper front wrappers of parts 2-5 bound in.
Seven years in the writing, War and Peace is undeniably the greatest literary work relating to the Napoleonic wars. The juxtaposition of historical, social, and personal themes and the monumental size and scope of the novel combine to present an accurate and vibrant portrait of the Russian nation. "This picture of Russian life, set against a background of Napoleon's invasion, is one of the great novels of world literature. In scope, organization, and variety of character studies, War and Peace defies limitation to any particular category of fiction. To classify the book as a historical, sociological, psychological, political, epic, or panoramic novel, or as an exemplum for a philosophy of history arbitrarily limits a breadth of treatment which combines all these elements… The greatness of War and Peace does not lie in its philosophy or in any contribution to the facts or theory of history. It depends on the building of a vast panorama of a whole society out of innumerable minute realistic details… The total picture is an unforgettable vision, distinguished by its depth and scope" (Hornstein, Reader's Companion to World Literature, 555-56).
War and Peace has proved remarkably influential. German novelist Thomas Mann noted of the novel, "The pure narrative power of his work is unequaled. Seldom did art work so much like nature." "From his first words we can be sure of one thing at any rate—here is a man who sees what we see, who proceeds, too, as we are accustomed to proceed, not from the inside outwards, but from the outside inwards… Nothing seems to escape him. Nothing glances off him unrecorded… Everything is astonishingly clear and absolutely sharp. Then, suddenly, just as we are exulting, breathing deep, feeling at once braced and purified, some detail—perhaps the head of a man—comes at us out of the picture in an alarming way, as if extruded by the very intensity of its life" (Virginia Woolf, "The Russian Point of View" in The Common Reader). "All his life, at every moment, he possessed the faculty of seeing phenomena in the detached finality of each separate instant, in perfectly distinct outline, as we see only on rare occasions, in childhood, or on the crest of an all-renewing happiness, or in the triumph of a great spiritual victory" (Boris Pasternak, quoted in Richard Pevear's introduction to his English translation, ix).
Unlike Tolstoy's other masterpiece, Anna Karenina, War and Peace first appeared in full in book form, not in periodicals, though the first two parts did appear under the title "Tysiacha Vosemsot Piatyi God" ("The Year 1805") in 1865 in the journal Russkii Vestnik. War and Peace was self-published; Tolstoy contracted Ris, advanced 4500 rubles for the printing of 4800 copies, and promised 30 percent of the gross profit to the printer and the proofreader. The enterprise showed a handsome return: the novel retailed for 10 rubles, and quickly went into a second edition following enthusiastic reviews. First printings, with Part 3 paginated 227 for 127, and 265 for 255; and Part 4 with 153 instead of 253. Original printed paper wrappers for parts 2-5, printed in red and black on yellow paper, bound in; all half titles present. Kilgour 1195. Pre-revolutionary owner's ink stamps on title pages (Iv.P. Barsukov); discreet owner ink signatures.
Only occasional foxing to text, a few instances of faint marginal dampstaining in Volumes I and II, bindings handsome. A beautiful copy, rare and desirable.