Boston: Benj. R. Tucker, 1890. Octavo, original full green cloth lettered in gilt. Private library label of George C. Hull to front pastedown. Spine ends and corners rubbed.
First American edition of Tolstoy's 1889 novel of sexual jealousy, self-published by translator Benjamin Tucker. The Kreutzer Sonata turns on the tormented monologue of Posdnicheff, recently acquitted of murdering his wife on the grounds of her apparent adultery: “I entered into the furrow dug formerly by my filthy suspicions, and I continually deepened it. She did the same thing.” Tolstoy's account of the way that married couples turn against each other was immediately censored, both in Russia and abroad; his longtime American translator Isabel Hapgood flatly refused to translate it. Into the void stepped Boston anarchist publisher Benjamin Tucker, who printed his own unexpurgated translation of The Kreutzer Sonata in June of 1890. When Tucker refused to extend a discount on the book to department store owner John Wanamaker, who also happened to be serving as Postmaster General, Wanamaker banned The Kreutzer Sonata from the United States mails on the grounds of obscenity. The ensuing publicity and trial led to an explosion of interest in the novel. “Why,” Tucker asked, “did two competing editions of The Kreutzer Sonata appear on the market before mine had had the field two months? Simply because the money was pouring into my pockets.” This is the first printing; Tucker would issue several later printings under his own imprint, before his translation was republished by J.S. Ogilvie later in the year. Line 72. A near-fine example of a landmark in Russian literature and American legal history.