RANSOME, Arthur (author). Dimitri MITROKHIN (illustrator). Old Peter's Russian Tales. London: T.C. & E.C. Jack, Ltd. 1916.
8vo. Original decorative white cloth, lettered and blocked in black to spine and in ochre, red and black to upper board, original bold floral endpapers; pp. [i-v], vi, [vii], viii, [ix-x], -334; with frontispiece, 7 other fine coloured plates, other decorations in black-and-white, and cover design all by Mitrokhin; an attractive copy with soiling to spine and lower cover, light overall rubbing, and tiny bruising to forecorners, internally remarkably fresh, crisp, and unfoxed throughout, without inscription; scarce.
First edition. Arthur Ransome is principally associated with his series of 12 children's books on the theme of sailing, beginning with Swallows and Amazons (1929). He did, however, began his writing career considerably earlier with a series of juvenile titles called Nature Books For Children, followed by literary biographies and works of criticism. In 1912, on the publication of his biography of Oscar Wilde, he became involved in a well-publicised libel suit with Lord Alfred Douglas, which he went on to win. Another legal battle followed with the publisher of that book, Charles Granville, who reneged on agreements, was subsequently convicted of embezzlement, and who fled the country. These disputes, and the breakdown of his marriage with Constance Walker, which had been contracted in 1909, spurred him to leave the country. He went to Russia in 1913 to study folklore, producing this volume of traditional Russian folk tales on the back of his research. On the outbreak of the First World War he became a Foreign Correspondent, eventually developing sympathies with the Bolshevik cause and becoming personally acquainted with both Vladimir Lenin and Leon Trotsky. His second wife, Evgenia Petrovna Shelepina was, in fact, Trotsky's personal secretary.