Paul Gilbert - Bookseller - Rare & Second-Hand Books on Russian Royalty

by Mikhail Iroshnikov, Liudmila Protsai and Yuri Shelayev


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This book represents the first attempt in post-revolutionary Russia to creat a photographic chronicle of the life of one of the country's emperors. In the eloquent and expressive language of the documentary photograph it tells about each of the 23 year reign of Nicholas II, about his childhood and youth and about his close relatives. Of course, not all periods in the life of the monarch are equally represented here. A large number of photographs proved lost beyond recovery, since for many years in this country any material connected with the House of Romanov was destroyed. Under these conditions not just the distribution, but even the mere retention of photographs of the Emperor or his family could -- right up to the 1980s -- give rise to accusations of monarchism with all the attendant consquences. Not unnaturally most people were inclined to dispose of such dangerous items.

For just this reason each piece of testimony of this kind which has down to us is of greatly increased value, not to mention the fact that many of the photos presented in the book are simply unique. They included amateur snapshots taken by members of the royal family themselves -- of less high quality than the works of the professional court photographers, they are less formal and more candid. Some dozen photographs bear the actual handwriting of members of the Imperial family -- Alexander III, Nicholas II, Alexandra Feodorovna. On the reverse of a number of prints there are the censors' notes and the instructions of the Empress; not a single photograph concerning the life of the royal family could be published then without undergoing special censorship in the Chancellery of His Imperial Majesty. The majority of photographs have been printed from original glass black-and-white negatives, which were preserved by some miracle in the Central State Archives of Cinematic, Phonographic and Photographic Documents in St. Petersburg, who assisted the authors with this beautiful book.

Many significant events, great and small, in Russian history at that time took place in front of the camera lens. These included the grandiose coronation festivities (1896), held not only in Moscow and St. Petersburg, but in other towns too and the magnificent festivals of the early 20th century: the bicentennial of the foundation of Russia's northern capital, St. Petersburg; the jubilees of great battles -- against the Swedes at Poltava in 1709 and against Napoleon at Borodino in 1812; the celebrations of the 300th anniversary which lasted for months; and more besides. Properly represented too are the dramatic military clashes of Nicholas's reign -- both the Russo-Japanese War and the First World War.

Beyond this, a veritable gallery of major historical figures parade before the reader, including crowned European relatives of the Romanovs, senior diplomats, notable public figures, and, first and foremost, members of the royal family itself, who have a sepearate chapter devoted to them.

All the photographs included in the book are carefully annotated and attributed. Wherever possible an indication is given not only of those shown in a picture, but also the place and date, and the name of the photographer. If necessary, further explanation accompanies the reproductions. At the back of the book there is a list of the most important and valuable sources used -- documents, memoirs, letters and printed literature. An introductory essay precedes each section, guiding the reader through the upheavals of history and making the visual material easier to understand.

Wherever possible the authors and compilers have tried to tell the story through contemporary documents, excerpts from Nicholas II's diary and his correspondence with Alexandra Feodorovna, grand dukes and other relatives; extracts from the memoirs, diaries and letters of noted Russian public and political figures, courtiers, diplomats and writers; the reports of the Tsar's ministers and generals; items from the press and so on.

Together with the many photographs (some 300 in all) these documents will undoubtedly enable the reader not only to imagine the life of the royal family, but also to understand better the contradictory personality of the last Russian monarch and to distinguish many of the features which characterized and shaped the age.

Without, of course, claiming to have exhausted the topics covered, the present book nevertheless reveals to the reader little-known, or even unknown aspects of life in Russia at the turn of the 20th century. This lost reality gazes out at us from almost every photograph, and these images themselves are not only items of a bygone era, but also an amazing mirror facet in the link between ages.

Thank you for your book order!


ITEM # 9003
BINDING: Large Hard Cover Edition
SIZE: 9" x 12"
NO. PAGES: 343
ILLUSTRATIONS: nearly 300 Black & White Photos

CONDITION: this is a second-hand copy in excellent condition, complete with dust jacket.

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