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Entries / Publishing (general article)

Publishing (general article)

Categories / Literature. Book Publishing/Publishing Houses

PUBLISHING. The origin of publishing in St. Petersburg is directly associated with the reforms of Tsar Peter the Great. In 1711 he ordered the establishment of the St. Petersburg Printing House which published various civil books. The first dated book was A Concise Representation of Trials or Lawsuits (1712). It also published political and legislative literature, religious books, and books on natural science, fiction, books on military and maritime science, architecture, engineering, and calendars. The circulation of books in the first quarter of the 18th century varied from 100 to 1,200 copies, while alphabets, church books and Government decrees came out with much bigger circulation. Over 400 books out of 616 issued in Russia in 1725-40 were published in St. Petersburg. The largest number of editions consisted of scientific and educational literature, fiction, and religious works; among them, books on foreign languages or translations prevailed. A significant share in book production belonged to descriptions of life at court, coronations, festivities; meanwhile, the issue of scientific and educational books increased, owing to the activity of St. Petersburg Academy of Sciences. Altogether, Academical Printing House published nearly 50% of all editions issued in Russia in the second quarter of the 18th century. In the second half of the 18th century scientific literature was also published by the Society for Book-Printing, N.I. Novikov, printing houses of the Naval Cadet Corps and Gentry Army Cadet Corps, printing house of the Mining School, and by the owners of private printing houses. In addition to that, the second half of the 18th century brought new types of scientific and educational books. Scientific literature on natural science and engineering was notable for its variety of subject-matter; reference books and popular science books were also published. Among other things, this time witnessed a dramatic rise in interest in translated French literature; the latter comprised one sixth of all printed editions issued in 1725-1800, mostly in St. Petersburg. The requirements of economic development of the country induced the augmentation of publishing books on engineering and agriculture. Philosophic, legal and economic literature, as well as natural science, was also published. In the 1820s-30s various literary almanacs and collections became wide-spread. In the mid-19th century, while "the great reforms" of the 1860s-70s were being developed and launched, the upsurge of printed matter was favoured by the augmentation of the number of publishing houses and printing houses. The rise in social conditions of the 1860s influenced a general increase in book production (considering the circulation and titles) as well as the change in the subject of the published literature: thus, the issue of serious social and economic literature and works on natural science was observed, along with the increase in the publication of works of Russian and European authors: economists, philosophers, sociologists, and natural scientists. At the same time the issue of books on engineering and agriculture, popular editions aimed at a general audience and for self-education also experienced a similar rise. In the 1880s the interest in natural science diminished, whereas the publishing of books on the humanities increased. During the 19th century the number of books in translation reduced from 50% to 9% of total book production. In the early 20th century St. Petersburg held the leading position in the country as to the number of published books, and the best printing houses and lithograph offices were concentrated here. During the Revolution of 1905-07, political literature, mostly pamphlets, were in great demand; at the same time leftist and liberal parties set their own publishing houses which published books, previously banned by the censor. After the revolution was defeated, St. Petersburg came to accumulate publishing houses which specialized in the issue of symbolists' and futurists' works, as well as of other modernist literature. Upon the beginning of the First World War (1914-18), publishing in St. Petersburg suffered a decline which was only aggravated by the events of October 1917. The years 1918-20 came to be the hardest in the history of Russian publishing, book output declined sharply as compared to 1913. With all this going on, some major pre-Revolutionary publishing companies continued to function, and various parties, societies, unions, Literary Groups, scientific organisations, co-operative societies and private individuals established their own publishing houses. Gradually these were displaced by new public publishing houses which followed the principles of the Bolshevist party in their activities. A special significance was attached to the issue of fiction, especially to the publication of inexpensive editions of literary classics. In 1923 a special Committee for publishing works of Russian classics was set up attached to the Leningrad State Publishing House; the first-rate specialists in study of literature, historians and critics contributed to its work. In 1924-30 in accordance with the plans of this Committee, Leningrad State Publishing House published almost all major works of Russian classical literature. The principal bulk of the production of the Publishing House of Petrograd Soviet in the years of the Civil War was made up of propaganda and political literature, in general one pamphlet, would cover the essential issues of economical, political and cultural life of the country. The introduction of the New Economical Policy (NEP) required radical changes in the work of publishing houses; the very character and type of published books changed. A pamphlet was replaced with voluminous scientific and educational books, classic scientific and literaturary works were published. The issue of books of a social-political character and those of social-economic character were increased, while technical editions were published in greater and greater quantities. In the 1930s the output of the Leningrad State Publishing House alone amounted to nearly 500 different editions. However, despite the variety of output, which comprised all the kinds of literature and all types of editions, the repertory of publishing houses was restricted by the ruling ideology and state policy in the field of culture, science and education. During the Great Patriotic War of 1941-45, books published by the Leningrad State Publishing House were dedicated to the defence and life of the city under the siege. After the war was over, in the 1950s, the authorities came to exercise severe control over subject matter of book output; in the meantime the circulation of fiction, educational literature and scientific editions experienced a rise. In the 1960s the rate of the growth of book publishing diminished, to be followed by a new rise which was again superseded by the reduction of the number of published books in the 1980s. In the 1990s highly commercial literature came to prevail over serious editions: thus, the top-rank positions were held by detective stories, fantasy and science-fiction and sentimental novels (love stories). The choice of books was widened by works of one-time forbidden philosophers, economists, psychologists etc, as well as by works of dissidents, the so-called samizdat and tamizdat. There was also a growth of translations of scientific, educational and entertaining literature as well. The rise of the circulation of separate types of editions is accompanied by a drastic reduction of the number of titles. Rapid development of the publishing network along with the sudden changes in the social life of the country entailed a decline in book output. At the same time, development of market relations animated St. Petersburg publishers to search for new forms and methods to capture the book market, improved study of book buyers' demands, and to analyse it and take into account in publishing.

References: Книжное дело Петербурга - Петрограда - Ленинграда. Л., 1981; Русская демократическая книга: Кн. дело Петербурга - Петрограда - Ленинграда. Л., 1983; Книжное дело в культурной и общественной жизни Петербурга - Петрограда - Ленинграда. Л., 1984; Книга в России, 1861-1881. М., 1988-1991. Т. 1-3; Книга в России, 1881-1895. СПб., 1997; Баренбаум И. Е. Книжный Петербург: Три века истории: Очерки изд. дела и кн. торговли. СПб., 2003.

I. E. Barenbaum.

Novikov Nikolay Ivanovich
Peter I, Emperor

Книжное дело Петербурга - Петрограда - Ленинграда. Л., 1981
Русская демократическая книга: Кн. дело Петербурга - Петрограда - Ленинграда. Л., 1983
Книга в России, 1861-1881. М., 1988-91
Книжное дело в культурной и общественной жизни Петербурга - Петрограда - Ленинграда. Л., 1984
Книга в России, 1881-1895. СПб., 1997

Printing Houses (entry)

PRINTING HOUSES. In 1711-21, four printing houses were opened in St. Petersburg by order of Tsar Peter the Great: the St. Petersburg Printing House, the Senate Printing House

Publishing houses (entry)

PUBLISHING HOUSES. Publishing in St. Petersburg dates back to 1711, when Tsar Peter the Great ordered the St. Petersburg Printing House to be established. The first printed matter issued in St. Petersburg was Vedomosti newspaper