Granstrem's Publishing Company

Gallant Knight of the Dream
(about gift books by Granstrem's Publishing Company)

M. Granstrem, E. Granstrem

GIFT BOOKS by the famous Petersburg publisher E. Granstrem occupy a prominent place among the publications of the pre-revolutionary period of Russian history. For a more complete coverage of his publishing activity, we will give a brief description of the social life and the publishing business in Russia in the late 19th - early 20th century.

In the history of publishing of that period, there are figures that have not attracted the attention of researchers for a long time. This is due to the fact that a number of publishers had no concern with stormy events of social change of the late 19th - early 20th century, and their activities have not received significant notice from historians. However, the study of history should be comprehensive, because history abhors exceptions. During this period, three ideological and political tendencies, namely revolutionary-democratic, liberal and conservative-monarchist, competed in Russian society. Each of them had their leaders, ideologues and publishers.

The spiritual life of the liberal opposition is inseparably associated with the name of K. Arseniev, K. Kavelin, S. Muromtsev and, especially, with St. Petersburg M. Stasyulevich's publishing house and members of his staff V. Gajewski, A. Pypin and E. Granstrem.

M. Stasyulevich and his colleagues working in magazine, newspaper and book publishing significantly contributed to the development of Russian culture. The ideas of enlightenment of the 1860s, namely the aversion to all forms of feudalism and the desire to lead Russia on the European path of developmen, formed the ideological foundation of the culture of that time.

Stasyulevich's liberal political views were well known to his contemporaries. His publishing company had authority and popularity among liberal intellectuals because of its reliability and high culture.

Liberal movement was widespread in Russia among the majority of the population. In contrast to the revolutionary-democrats, liberal movement did not resort to conspiratorial methods. Liberals found recruiting the masses to join them distasteful. Therefore, they used the written word as the only possible medium to fight for the reforms in the Motherland. That is why, the publishing and educational activities were so important. Printing magazines and books became the only possible way to promote the principles of liberalism and to put pressure upon the autocracy.

The true patriot of Russia Mikhail Stasyulevich published the liberal magazine Vestnik Evropy (Herald of Europe), books by authors such as Ivan Turgenev, Nikolay Nekrasov, Alexey Tolstoy, Alexandr Ostrovsky, Nikolay Uspensky etc.

E. Granstrem's gift books made the ideas of liberalism, adopted and supported by M. Stasyulevich, a reality

Eduard Andrey Granstrem, the future writer and publisher, was born in 1843 in St. Petersburg, in a family originating from northern Sweden. Aged 16, E. Granstrem become an apprentice in Markov's printing office after receiving primary education. His first place of work was printing of the magazine Sovremennik (The Contemporary), on which then Nekrasov, Saltykov-Shchedrin, Reshetnikov and other progressive leaders of Russia and St. Petersburg worked.

After the magazine Sovremennik (The Contemporary) had been closed in 1866, E. Granstrem moved to the M. Stasyulevich's press for which he served for the rest of his life, and where, in 1881, he launched his own publishing venture which issued books for children and young people. However, he adopted many principles of publishing from M. Stasyulevich who knew how to hire creative and intelligent people. His employees, besides the usual editorial duties, could and wanted to write. Therefore, the specific item was included in the employment contracts by Stasyulevich, for which an employee had a right to submit their writings under consideration for publication. The motto of the magazine Vestnik Evropy (Herald of Europe), issued by M. Stasyulevich, was "Labour, Business, Knowledge" that was what then lay on the basis of the Granstrem publishing company .

Starting to publish the magazine Vestnik Evropy (Herald of Europe), M. Stasyulevich decided to create his own print shop regardless of the cost. E. Granstrem was directly involved in this activity that included purchasing printing machines in Germany and organizing and executing all related printing works ). The business was organized so that the print shop completely paid for itself a year later. It made possible to issue not only the magazine, but also books.

Serving for the printing house first as a senior setter, and then as the manager, Granstrem had the opportunity to develop his creative abilities. By this time, he knew German, Swedish and Finnish perfectly well. This enabled him to later translate and publish the Finnish epic poem Kalevala.

In 1876, Eduard Granstrem married Matilda Pauline, who worked as a proofreader in Stasyulevich's press. Matilda Pauline received an excellent education at the time: she knew French, English and Italian perfectly well. This allowed her to become a writer and a wonderful translator.

The idea to establish a printing company for publication of gift books for children and young people was lucky: in 1881, the first books by the company appeared: Along the Polar Margins of Russia and In the Wilds of the North, as well as the Finnish epic poem Kalevala, translated by E. Granstrem. These books at once became widely popular:a beautiful intelligent book with a lot of illustrations was a nice present to give someone.

Several factors were the key to Granstrem's publishing company's success:

  1. by that time, there was a public need to issue popular informative and entertaining books specially intended for children, taking into account the child's perception of the world,
  2. after the start of economic reforms of the 1860s, relatively prosperous people, a so-called middle class, emerged in Russia, that contributed to the economic growth of printing business,
  3. it requires a wide acquaintance with foreign literature,
  4. it was necessary to make the book appealing to children. Hence a good idea - to produce gift books. This idea has come to our days in the aphorism "The book is the best gift."
  5. Finally, there were new possibilities of artistic design of printed books.

What were Gift Books? How did they differ from from other publications?

When determining the place of books Granstrem among others, an essential fact is evident: these books have distinctive characteristics and find their readers.

The highest quality of these beautiful gift books was determied by the fact that they were printed on fine paper, in clear font. Convenient text layout, detailed headings and an abundance of headbands and illustrations were a direct consequence of the fact that being a printer and a proof-reader gave the authors of the books a good school.

The publisher had their own unique traditions of design and style: all the books have the same format, the best of them have embossed with gold cover decoration and gold edges, a flyleaf always bears a list of already published books.

Very expressive was wide application of various illustrations - pictures via text (drawings and prints) and miniatures at the beginning and at the end of a chapter. Due to their luxurious design and rich illustrations, gift books often replaced museums and shows to their owners (the children, and their parents).

Topics published books was quite diverse. The main themes were:

  1. Geography and travels: In Wonderland (the adventures in India), Along the Polar Margins of Russia (about Nordenskioeld's expedition around Europe and Asia in 1878), Kings of Seas (about the discovery of North America by the Vikings), Century of Discoveries (about the geographical discoveries in the 15th-16th centuries), In the Forests of Florida and other books.
  2. History and heroes of different nations: Sword of Hannibal (on the great military leader of Carthage), Joan of Arc, Saint Bartholomew's Eve (about the tragic fate of the Huguenots in France), Blue Flag (on the campaigns of Genghis Khan), Snow King (about the 30-year war and Swedish King Gustavus Adolphus), Fall of Grenada (about the expulsion of the Moors from Spain), Knights of the Round Table (an adoptation of the legend of King Arthur for the children), Little Schoolgirls from the Five Parts of the World, Mysterious Gondola (about the history of Venice) and other books.
  3. Lifes of great people, Shakespeare and His Time, Schiller and Goethe (on friendship between the two great poets) and other already mentioned books.
  4. Popularization of knowledge of nature: Lyubochka's Why? and Because!.
  5. Adventures of young children-heroes: Elena Robinson, Little Schoolgirls from the Five Parts of the World, Little Messenger, Seven Wise Schoolboys, Baby Asya, Lively Person and other books.
  6. Finally, fairy tales, fantasy stories, legends and epics: Tales by Topelius, the Finnish national epic poem Kalevala, Adventures of Anna in Wonderland (by L. Carroll), Adventures of a Marionette, Fairy Tsipangu Island, Adventures of Fox Patrikeevich (by Goethe) and other books.

Thus, we see that the publication of books - gifts by E. Granstrem was aimed at a broad education of children and young people in the spirit of heroism of different nations and encourages readers to follow a dream and to believe in the rational structure of the world and the truth of goodness. In the collection of poems Victoria Regia, Igor Severyanin recalls his impressions about these books:

Since the early years, I was ecstatic,
Since the early years, I was a daydreamer!
And Granstrem embossed with gold —
The gallant knight of the dream!

Gift books impressed deeply the Russian readers who remembered them for many decades. They are mentioned by several writers of the mid 20th century. For instance, Veniamin Kaverin talks about the books Elena Robinson and Century of Discoveries in the novel Two Captains. 7. Viktor Nekrasov also remembers them in the story American Grandfather. There is no doubt that the well-known tale of A.N. Tolstoy Adventures of Buratino was inspired by the famous fairy tale about Pinocchio entitled Storia di un burattino ( Adventures of a Marionette) by Carlo Collodi, translated by M. Granstrem from the Italian. For the first time in Russia, E. Granstrem translated the fantastic novel of Alice's Adventures in Wonderland written by L. Carroll.

Thus, publishing gift books by E. Granstrem made a significant contribution to Russian culture and greatly expanded the readers' horizons.

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I. Severyanin. Poetry of my Childhood and Adolescence // I. Severyanin. The Unanswered Toast : Verses. Poems. Prose. Moscow, 1999. P. 131.
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V. Kaverin. Two Captains // Collected Works. Moscow, 1981. Vol. 3. Pp. 74, 90.