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The Origins of the ROSTA Windows

Oktiabr' 1917-1918. Geroi i zhertvy revoliutsii [October 1917-1918. Heroes and victims of the Revolution].

Petrograd: Izdanie Otdela Izobrazitel'nykh Iskusstv Komissariata Narodnogo Prosveshcheniia (Printed by Khudozhestvenno-graficheskoe Atel'e i pechatnia M. Pivovarskogo), [1918]. Folio (34.8 × 25.8 cm). Original printed portfolio, printed in red and black with three flaps, housing title leaf and eighteen leaves of plates. Light wear, as often, to the portfolio, with small tears to edges and some separation to spine and flaps; contents very good.

Rare work of collaboration between the poet Vladimir Mayakovsky and Russian avant-garde artists Ksenya Boguslavskaia, Ivan Puni, Vladimir Kozlinskii, and Sergei Makletsov, which constitutes one of the earliest attempts at "agitpoeziia," or poetry suitable for political agitation. The portfolio comprises two series of illustrations, depicting the "winners" and "losers" of the October Revolution, with workers, Red Army soldiers, peasants, sailors, seamstresses, laundresses, an automobilist, a telegraphist, and a railway man on the "pro" side. The "victims" include a factory owner, a landowner, a kulak, a priest, a bureaucrat, a general, a merchant, a landowner's wife, and a banker. Each of the images, with one exception, features a quatrain by Mayakovsky in the style of the "chastushka," a simple rhymed folk poem. Mayakovsky himself noted the organic relationship between this early propagandistic work and the further development of the revolutionary poster and the famed ROSTA posters.

A recent scholar further contextualizes the method employed as related to the idea of "montage": "In both its textual and graphic representations, this book, intended to be read aloud to preliterate children or beginning readers, shows revolutionary temporality not so much as a historical event but rather as an agonistic conflict and a rupture in the temporal flow, unfolding in the present. Yet it should also be noted that this work shows no actual violent conflict in its illustrations, and instead, as in classic montage theory, breaks down components of action into contrasting, juxtaposed elements.... In effect, the book is a proto-image of Eisenstein's conception of the 'montage of attractions' that he would formulate in subsequent years as a formal method for delivering a 'shock' to the viewer's psyche - a representation that shows events in their unfolding..." (Kevin M. F. Platt, "Spatializing Revolutionary Temporality: From Montage and Dynamism to Map and Plan", in Pedagogy of Images: Depicting Communism for Children, p. 397).

None of the plates are signed by the artists, but their authorship is well-established. Of particular interest are the illustrations by Ksenya Boguslavskaya (1892-1972), the artist, poet, and designer, and her husband Ivan Puni (1892-1956), both of which were exploring cubo-futurist and suprematist tendencies. Far less known, both in Russia and abroad, is Sergei N. Makletsov, a graphic artist who was active in Petrograd in the late 1910s, but about whose fate little is known. Vladimir Kozlinskii was a student of Bakst and Dobuzhinsky, who was active as a poster designer, graphic artist, and caricaturist, as well as an illustrator of works by Mayakovsky and Iuri Olesha, as well as a prolific creator of urban decorations.

As of October 2021, KVK, OCLC show seven copies in North America.

Book ID: 51479

Price: $4,500.00