Other Currencies

Rare Photo-Illustrated Travelogue on the Soviet Union

Soviet Tour 1936.

Cambridge: self-published, 1936. Large octavo (26 × 20.5 cm). Original beige buckram with title to spine; [9], 2–260, [8] leaves of mimeographed typescript to rectos only; with [41] leaves containing 81 original photographs, hand drawn maps, and illustrations. Signed and inscribed by the author. Light foxing to title; spine starting, but still about very good.

Rare copy of this self-published account of a journey to the Soviet Union, likely published in very small numbers by a young Soviet sympathizer, following his Intourist trip in May–July of 1936. Writing for “middle-class, liberal-minded readers” with whom he identifies, the author describes his voyage from London to Leningrad on the Soviet vessel “Kooperatzia” (a Soviet steamer that subsequently delivered goods to Republican Spain), as well as his train travels in the Soviet Union, including stops in Leningrad, Moscow, Kharkov, Rostov, Odessa, Tiflis, Sevastopol, Kiev, Ordzhonikidze (modern-day Vladikavkaz), Batumi, Yalta, and Sevastopol. The report includes two hand drawn maps, one showing the growth of Soviet Moscow and another the route of the tour, as well as drawings of architectural details of Russian churches, monuments, plant life, currency, etc. The account is further illustrated with the author’s original photographs, numbered and annotated, and includes a brief bibliography and an index.

The author’s eclectic and earnest account is generally sympathetic to the Soviet reality as it is presented to him through Intourist tour leaders and interpreters and incorporates the impressions of fellow tourists coming from Ohio, Chicago, and London among other places. The volume is divided into twelve sections, including: “Soviet Cities,” “Collective Farms,” “Soviet Technological Advances,” “Soviet History,” “Soviet Administration,” “Facilities for Soviet Youth,” “Soviet Prosperity,” and a closing chapter on “The Soviet Union and World Affairs.” Of special note is the author’s interest in botany, with detailed accounts of Soviet botanical gardens, discussions of greening of Soviet cities and photographs, drawings and discussions of the various plants.

Founded in 1929, Intourist was the primary Soviet tour agency charged with everything from transporting foreign tourists to organizing outings, informational brochures and generally shaping foreigners’ impressions of the Soviet Union. In 1936 it brought an estimated 13,500 foreign tourists into the country, including the author of this volume. The narrative is a fascinating reflection of the way the Soviet Union was experienced by foreign travelers through the prism of Intourist. Other known copies were presented with inscriptions to Dr. William Hermanns (1895–1990) and Sir Raymond Edward Priestley (1886–1974) whom the author presumably knew personally. This copy also signed and inscribed by the author. In addition to an edition with original photographs, a text-only version was also distributed by the author, although both likely in very small copies and largely to friends.

As of December 2020, KVK and OCLC locate two other copies, in Chicago and Birmingham (it is unclear from which edition).

Book ID: 51136

Price: $4,500.00