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Forensic Photography in the Soviet Union

Sudebnaia fotografiia: kratkoe sistematicheskoe rukovodstvo dlia organov doznaniia, sledstviia, suda, prokuratury, pravozastupnikov i ekspertov [Forensic photography. A brief systematic guide for investigative, legislative and prosecutor’s offices, lawyers and experts].

Moscow: Izdanie NKVD pri zagotkhoze militsii respubliki (according to wrapper: Izdatel'stvo Narodnogo Komissar. Vnutr. Del), 1926. Octavo (27.5 × 18 cm). Original printed staple-stitched wrappers; 162 pp. Numerous illustrations from photographs and drawings throughout, including one folding plate. Very good.

First edition of this detailed guide to forensic photography in the Soviet Union, intended as a manual for investigators, police, courts, lawyers, and other experts. The author, Sergei Potapov (1873-1957), was a Russian and Soviet criminologist, founder of systematic (scientific) forensic identification in Russia, especially forensic photography, and handwriting identification. He also collected so-called criminal folklore and assembled one of the first Soviet lexicons of prison jargon “Blatnaia muzyka” (1923).

Potapov graduated from the Law Faculty of Moscow University and in 1911 visited forensic pioneer Archibald Reiss in Switzerland, as well as the identification bureau of Alphonse Bertillon, the inventor of the mug shot, in Paris. His goal was to study the newest “scientific” criminological methods and to bring his knowledge back to Russia. In the introduction to this text, Potapov notes that his work is the first in the Russian language to briefly and systematically outline the uses of photography during criminal investigations in all their variety. From 1923, Potapov was head of the Scientific Department of NKVD, the predecessor organization of the KGB. An interesting, highly technical document of the development of the photographic methods that would later doubtless be used by the Soviet secret police.

The book was a popular resource: a second edition appeared in 1936, during the Stalinist Purges, and an expanded third edition in 1948. As of August 2021, KVK, OCLC show only one copy, at Queens University (Kingston, Ontario).

Book ID: 51517

Price: $650.00