Libmonster ID: RU-17160
Author(s) of the publication: Olga BORISOVA

"All my life I have believed in one power, which helps me overcome all burdens of life... I believe... in Russian people, in the power of light and knowledge." These words belong to the famous national publisher and enlightener of the late 19th-early 20th centuries Ivan Sytin, whose 160th birth anniversary we mark on February 5, 2011. He spent the last seven years of his life in a house in Tverskaya Street (Moscow), where in 1989 the Voluntary Society of Book Lovers of the RSFSR opened a Memorial Museum of this talented person.

The future media magnate, as they would say today, started from scratch. As a 15-year-old peasant lad, he first crossed the threshold of the house of Moscow merchant Pyotr Sharapov in the autumn of 1866. The business of that well-known merchant developed in two directions, i.e. trade in furs and cheap popular prints (colored graphic pictures painted by anonymous self-taught artists and duplicated by printing), song books and books of dream interpretations. It so happened that Ivan was employed at a bookshop. Besides, his boss had a good library, and the inquisitive youth "devoured" attractive books one by one, illustrated with beautiful engravings. But once he saw how books were made, Sytin decided that it would become his life's work.

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Pretty soon this industrious, sociable and enterprising young man became an immediate assistant to his elderly merchant and carried out his most important errands. In 1876, Sytin married a daughter of a confectioner-merchant and got a substantial sum of money as a dowry. He borrowed about as much from Sharapov and opened a lithographic workshop on Voronukhina hill (between Arbat and Smolenskaya streets), which then turned into the famous partnership "Ivan Sytin and Co." and later on into the biggest in Russia "First Model Printing House".

The businessman-beginner looked for new ways in the chosen sphere of activity and tried to make his products necessary for people. For example, during the Russo-Turkish war of 1877-1878 he duplicated pictures of combat actions and maps of battles with an inscription "For newspaper readers. Visual aid", which brought a sizable profit. It should be noted that books cost much at that time, while widely available cheap pictures at a moderate price were of low quality, printed on low-quality paper and were badly colored. We can say that Sytin started a revolution in printing business. He invited the best printers and artists to his workshop and used good materials. The result surpassed the most daring expectations, and there was no getting of customers.

His business gradually expanded and experience grew, while a bronze medal awarded at the All-Russia Industrial Exhibition of 1882 for his displayed publications brought fame to him. However, later on Sytin recalled: "I instinctively understood how far we were from real literature. But traditions of trade in cheap popular literature were very stable, and it was necessary to break them with patience.".

In 1883, Sytin opened his own small bookshop. Customers, including small wholesale ones or pedlars (village book-pedlars), visited it readily, and writers also called on. Leo Tolstoy used to visit it too. In a short while a representative of the great man of letters suggested publication of works by talented Russian novelists and poets at the price of cheap popular prints (the visitor brought stories by Nikolai Leskov, Ivan Turge-nev* and Leo Tolstoy). Sytin agreed and provided his printing facilities for duplication of products of the Posrednik publishers, which prepared such manuscripts for printing. About 12 mln copies of cheap books with covers designed by famous artists, in particular, Ilya Repin and Konstantin Savitsky came off the press only in the first four years of their joint work. In the course of 15 years of fruitful cooperation, the average reader got acquainted with works of our great poet Alexander Pushkin**, writer of fables Ivan Krylov, poems of Alexei Koltsov, Russian epics, fairy tales, medical and educational booklets, etc.

Sytin wrote afterwards: "It was not a job, it was a religious service." Moreover, eager to learn from his young years and a passionate reader, Sytin realized that the printed word should be made known to peasants and workers. Therefore, he sent his representatives to villages, factories and plants, which helped customers not only obtain required books, but also order them from catalogs to be paid on delivery.

Sytin believed that ordinary people also needed literature promoting education. According to him, calendars could be "universal reference books or encyclopedias for life". In 1884, Sytin published Universal Russian Calendar, which attracted numerous customers by its colorful cover, a great number of engravings and a low price. It was followed by other editions, such as General Purpose Calendar, People's Agricultural Calendar, Old Believers' Calendar, Ladies' Calendar, Teachers' Calendar, Military Calendar, Hunter's Calendar, etc. Besides, the publisher made such publications extremely informative bringing their total print run to 2 mln copies a year and later on recalled that they "for the first time include articles on

See: G. Medyntseva, "Ivan Turgenev's Two Homelands", Science in Russia, No. 2, 2009.–Ed.

** See: V. Nepomnyashchy, "The Pushkin Phenomenon Through the Obvious", Science in Russia, No. 3, 1999.–Ed.

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different branches of knowledge. They favorably differ by impressive appearance and abundance of illustrations in texts".

In 1889, when Sytin set up Ivan Sytin and Co. partnership, he was awarded silver medal for cheap popular prints at the All-Russia Industrial Exhibition in Moscow. Delighted by their high quality, the artist and engraver Mikhail Botkin suggested Sytin to reproduce paintings of the most popular artists. The latter agreed and, as ever, got through perfectly well, which substantially promoted his authority, though he continued his main business, i.e. education of people. Already recognized by that time, the master of polygraphy prepared and published a multitude of visual aids, educational and popular scientific literature, colorful books for children, booklets of the Pravda and Library for Self-Education series, the Knigovedeniye (Book Science) journal, etc.

In 1893, Sytin got acquainted with Anton Chekhov*, who persuaded him to publish a newspaper, and four years later the partnership acquired the Russkoye Slovo (Russian Word) newspaper (published until 1918). The work did not go right at once. But in 1901 the editorial office was headed by the then famous columnist Vlas Doroshevich, who invited noted journalists and such eminent writers as Vladimir Gilyarovsky, Maxim Gorky, Ivan Bunin, Alexander Kuprin, Leonid Andreev and Vyacheslav Ivanov for cooperation. In addition, it was the first national periodical, which sent its correspondents to all major cities of our country and also many capitals of foreign countries. Therefore, "the news factory", as it was called, provided extremely prompt coverage of events (the then Chairman of the Council of Ministers Sergei Witte pointed out: "Even the government cannot assure such quick collection of information") and soon became very popular among readers.

It should be mentioned that the building in the Tverskaya street, where the popular newspaper was published, also deserves special attention. It was designed by the master of modernist style** Adolph Erichson together with the talented engineer and inventor Vladimir Shukhov (honorary member of the USSR Academy of Sciences from 1929) and decorated by the well-known artist Ivan Bilibin. The building was built in 1904 and eight years later extended and reconstructed under direction of the same architect. By the way, already in 1903 the said creative duet built a printing house for Sytin in the Pyatnitskaya street, which is a fascinating monument of architecture of Russian "new style" today.

In 1895, Sytin launched another big project, namely, publication of "Library for Self-Education", which included 47 volumes on history, philosophy, economics

See: V. Vasilyev, "In Time My Works Shall See the Light..." (Anton Chekhov); Yu. Balabanova, "Seven Years in Melikhovo", Science in Russia, No. 1, 2010.–Ed.

** See: T. Geidor, "Russian Architecture of the Silver Age", Science in Russia, No. 6, 2009.–Ed.

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Tverskaya street at the end of the 19th century. To the left is a house, where Ivan Sytin's Memorial Flat is situated today.

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and natural science edited by professors of Moscow University*. Special consideration deserves such a line of his activity as publication of literature for children started early in the 1880s with alphabets, tales and stories with pictures. Gradually this line became so large that a special division was set up within the partnership, which dealt with publication of tales first by known Russian authors and then by foreign authors. The division was headed by teachers, methodists and public figures Vasily Vakhterov and Nikolai Tulupov, already famous in the field of education. By the way, world classics were widely covered and included works by the greatest writers, such as Miguel de Cervantes, Jonathan Swift, Daniel Defoe, Walter Scott and Charles Dickens, Harriet Beecher Stowe, Mark Twain, Fenimor Cooper, and Alphonse Daudet.

Such attention of the businessman to the literature of younger generation was not accidental, as he tried to look ahead and train specialists of printing business and, as a whole, understood the mission of the book publisher as imparting of knowledge to people. In 1903, he opened a free school of technical drawing and lithographic art in Moscow for sons of employees and workers of his enterprises. Talented students were sent later to the Moscow College (today the Russian Academy) of Painting, Sculpture and Architecture. Besides, in 1911 Sytin built the Teachers' House in the Malaya Ordynka street, where a teachers' museum, studies, a library and an audience hall were situated.

Whatever this energetic and thoughtful man decided to do, it was "doomed" to success. Sytin expanded production and worked on new projects. In particular, early in the 20th century he published multivolume editions "Popular Encyclopedia" (1910-1912), "Military Encyclopedia" (1911-1915), "Encyclopedia for Children" (1913-1914), research work "The Patriotic War of 1812 and Russian Society. 1812-1912" (1912), and also the luxurious edition "Great Reform" devoted to the 50th anniversary of the abolition of serfdom in our country (1911), the historical work on the 300th anniversary of the House of Romanovs** "Three Centuries" (1913), books "What Does the Peasant Need?", "Contemporary Sociopolitical Dictionary" and others.

The year 1916 marked the 50th anniversary of Sytin's book-publishing business, and in February 1917 this event was celebrated at the Polytechnical Museum. The publication of a richly illustrated literary-artistic collection "Haif a Century for the Book (1866-1916)" was

See: Ye. Sysoyeva, "The Torch of Learning", Science in Russia, No. 3, 2007.–Ed.

** See: O. Bazanova, "Cradle of the Romanov House", Science in Russia, No. 2, 2008.–Ed.

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timed to coincide with the jubilee. It included 200 essays, in particular, by writers Maxim Gorky, Alexander Kuprin, the artist Nikolai Roerich, other representatives of literature and arts, and also scientists, businessmen and public figures. Recollections of Sytin were also published in that collection. It should be noted that in early 1920s he continued work on the collection, but only 30 years later his son found Sytin's manuscript in the family archives and published it under the title "Life for the Book" in 1960.

By 1917 Sytin had a network of bookshops throughout the country, which carried on retail and wholesale trade. His printing houses were equipped with sophisticated machinery, and their products made up a quarter of the country's publishing market. All of these works became the state property after Bolsheviks came to power in the same year, and Sytin approved it: "I considered transfer of the whole factory industry to the true owner, to people a good deal and signed up as a free employee at the factory. I was happy that my life's work found further development, as the book became a part of people's life under the new power. " By the way, he was asked to head Gosizdat (State Publishing House), formed in 1919 in Moscow, but he declined the offer referring to his insufficient education.

But this energetic man could not live without work. First he was a free adviser to the Gosizdat, then, by order of the government, he conducted negotiations in Germany on paper production for national book printing, together with other men of culture organized an exhibition of Russian painting in the USA, and also set of printing houses working.

After his death in 1934, his son and two daughters got busy with search for copies of printed material produced by printing houses of their father and, therefore often turned for help to rare book dealers and book collectors. Laborious and intensive work continued for many years. At last in 1989 all collected material together with Sytin's personal effects, household articles, furniture, letters, photos, his collection of paintings and congratulatory addresses (all these items were recognized by specialists as monuments of material culture of late 19th-early 20th centuries) were included in the exposition of Sytin's Memorial Flat in the Tverskaya street. Of interest is the building of this museum, which was built in 1900-1901 as a profitable house of Bakhrushin merchants by the architect Karl Gippius, designer of Alexei Bakhrushin's mansion (today it is the Bakhrushin State Central Theater Museum)*.

At present the Sytin's museum includes about 1,400 books, booklets, graphic sheets, etc., 44 jubilee addresses, 62 household and furniture articles, 22 works of painting and sculpture and more than 400 items of the family archives. Since 1988 the exhibition center of the museum holds subject displays based on collections of the Sytin family and Moscow bibliophiles, meetings of the Bibliophile Club, classes of the Book University, Sytin's readings, lectures and excursions. It is especially gratifying that the collection of publications by the famous enlightener is replenished gradually through second-hand bookshops and donations.

See: O. Bazanova, "Russian Theater's Encyclopedia", Science in Russia, No. 5,2010.–Ed.


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