Dina Gusejnova, ‘The cosmopolitan war library: Ivan Sytin, Anton Kippenberg, and the making of world literature during World War I’

The Russian publisher and entrepreneur Ivan Sytin (1851-1934) was a pioneer in cheap book production, which became particularly important for the military market since the 1890s. Similarly, in Germany, the publishing house of Anton Kippenberg (1874-1951), Insel, undertook one of the most comprehensive provisions of world literature for organizations such as the German Red Cross. By analysing the selection, production, and distribution processes of world literature for the front during World War I, I propose viewing this form of publishing as a type of negative cosmopolitanism which anticipated the large-scale institutionalization of world literature in the aftermath of the war under the auspices of such institutions as the Comintern and the PEN Club.

The picture of the Leipzig monument for the Battle of the Peoples listed above was used by Insel to mark books that had passed German censorship. Symbols of internationalism like this monument, which had just been unveiled in 1913 to mark the one hundredth anniversay of the Battle of the Peoples, had become inseparable from the memory of great wars. The task of this paper is to establish a social portrait of the international network behind these two enterprises. I propose to do so by paying particular attention to the importance of transnational connections between translators, illustrators, and book distributors, across the fault lines of the Great War.

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