SUMAROKOV, Aleksandr Petrovich (1717-1777). Pustynnik. [The Hermit]. St Petersburg: Imperial Academy of Sciences, 1769. [with] Iaropolk i Dimiza. [Iaropolk and Dimiza]. St Petersburg: Imperial Academy of Sciences, 1768. [with] Vysheslav. [Vysheslav]. St Petersburg: Imperial Academy of Sciences, . [with] Gamlet. [Hamlet]. [St Petersburg: Imperial Academy of Sciences, 1749]. [with] Artistona. [Aristona]. [St Petersburg: Imperial Academy of Sciences, 1751]. [with] Dve epistoly. [Two Letters]. [St Petersburg: Imperial Academy of Sciences, 1749].
In 1756, the first official Russian public theatre was established in St Petersburg by imperial decree, with A.P. Sumarokov as appointed manager, director and most performed author. His tragedies Aristona , Iaropolk i Dimiza and Vysheslav showcase his devotion to classicism, featuring plots and a language closely translated from French drama. Pustynnik is inspired by the settings of ancient Russia, bringing together the religious tone of native mystery plays and the rationalism of the Russian Enlightenment. The adaptation of Hamlet , from the French, ‘squeezes Shakespeare into a neoclassic corset, with no ghost, two confidants, and the love of Ophelia opposed to a struggle for the crown’, a reference to Empress Elizabeth’s accession (Senelick). Dve epistoly are letters on the Russian language and on poetry. 1: SK XVIII 7028, 2: SK XVIII 7065, 3: SK XVIII 6947, 4: SK XVIII 6949, 5: SK XVIII 6944, 6: SK XVIII 6953. Not in Smirnov-Sokol’skii, Moia biblioteka. L. Senelick, Historical Dictionary of Russian Theatre , p. 385, M.C. Levitt, ‘Sumarokov’s Drama’, p. 112. Octavo (180 x 105mm). 4: with the final errata (slight toning, occasional spotting, 1: couple of ink splashes, 3: wanting final blank, 4: title dusty, lower margins and gutter repaired in a few places, couple of clean marginal tears, 5: couple of leaves slightly browned). Contemporary full calf, marbled endpapers, boards gilt ruled, spine gilt, gilt-lettered morocco label, a.e.r. (joints and spine a bit cracked, extremities rubbed). Provenance: contemporary manuscript index (ffep), 3: indistinct contemporary inscription (title), 4: pencilled annotations.