Brothers Karamazov

Sun Jun 16 23:13:26 EDT 2002

I have stated firsts of Dostoyevsky’s BROTHERS KARAMAZOV in 
the “transitional” balloon cloth binding, the Rockwell Kent 
binding with the torchbearer on the front panel stamped in 
gold (Henry’s binding 5), and the Kent binding with the 
grape vine on the spine and a blind stamped torchbearer in 
the front panel.

BROTHERS KARAMAZOV was first published in Feb. 1929 in the 
transitional binding, which was only in use for three 
months.  My copies in the transitional binding and Henry’s 
binding 5 are bibliographically identical.  In both copies 
the last page is blank, and the last gathering consists 
(oddly) of l4 leaves, with the first leaf (pp. [949-950]) 
congruent with the last leaf (pp.975-[976]), which proves 
that no leaves are missing.  Both copies have spring 1929 
jackets (includes Brothers Karamazov but not Chaucer, 
Canterbury Tales).  

The “transitional” binding was never intended to be 
permanent, and it appears that the ML bound enough copies in 
the transitional binding to satisfy initial demand and held 
the rest until the Kent binding became available.  The first 
printing was unusually large (20,000 copies), and the ML 
probably didn’t want to be selling them for longer than 
necessary in a binding that was about to be superseded.

My copy in the Kent binding with the blind stamped 
torchbearer is unquestionably a different printing.  It 
retains the “First” statement and has the same publisher’s 
note facing the title page as the earlier copies.  But blank 
leaves have been added at the beginning and end of the 
volume.  This results in a book in which all 31 gatherings 
consist of 16 leaves, which is far more common than having 
one gathering of 14 leaves.  This copy has a fall 1929 
jacket (includes Chaucer, Canterbury Tales but not 
Hemingway, Sun Also Rises).  Cerf indicated that BROTHERS 
KARAMAZOV sold about 30,000 copies during its first two-and-
a-half years in the series.  Later ML printings were usually 
smaller than initial printings and generally consisted of 
1,000-5,000 copies.  My guess is that this copy is from the 
second printing.

If you’re contemplating paying big bucks for a BROTHERS 
KARAMAZOV first, make sure there aren’t blank leaves at the 
beginning and end of the volume!

Gordon B. Neavill
Associate Professor
Library and Information Science Program
Wayne State University
Detroit, MI 48202
aa3401 at 

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