Published by The Moscow Tribune on Tuesday, October 11,1994.
Mad Hatter in Russia
By Olga Slobodkina
Special to The Moscow Tribune
Alexander Milkhailovich Rushailo considers that his collection of various editions and drawings of Lewis Carroll's Alice's Adventures in Wonderland and Through the Looking Glass is itself a Russian wonder.
His collection consists of upwards of 100 books about Carroll, the British author's works in mathematics, over 300 editions of Alice in 30 languages and original sketches and drawings by 35 Russian artists, including such well-known book illustrators as Gennady Kalinovsky, Yuri Vashenko, May Miturich, Edward Gorokhovsky, and Victor Chizhikov. It is the largest such collection in Russia and up until recently boasted editions unknown to the world's most prominent collectors of Alice.
Smiling shyly, the collector calls it a wonder that most of the drawings have been given to him by the artists themselves. In fact, two illustrators to Carroll's The Hunting of the Snark, Robert Avotin and Lev Zalessky, contributed free copies of their drawings done especially for Rushailo's collection. "This can happen only in Russia," says Rushailo.
This ardent bibliophile and professional engineer is currently preparing for an exhibit which will run Oct. 12-30 in Moscow's Museum of Ex-Libris. On display will be Alice in Wonderland and Through the Looking Glass published in various foreign languages, including those of the former Soviet republics, drawings done by Russian book illustrators and theatre artists to these two books, and four Russian editions of The Hunting of the Snark, published in Russia only within the past three years.
Having.learned of the planned exhibit, book illustrator Kalinovsky immediately began work on an original picture that he intends to present at the opening. In addition to this picture, another possible highlight of the exhibit may he a new translation of Alice done by Yuri Baturin, National Security Assistant to President Boris Yeltsin. "I hope to get his translation by the beginning of my exhibit," says Rushailo. "I wish Baturin could come to the exhibit himself." Rushailo is also the owner of the only surviving
copy of an Alice translation made in 1913 by Mikhail Chekhov, Anton's ' brother, published in a supplement to the magazine Zolotoye Detstvo (Golden Childhood). Other rarities include a unique copy of Alice bound in gilt-edged red Moroccan leather, found by Rushailo in 1987 in a second-hand bookstore in the centre of Moscow, a beautiful Weimar edition of Alice published in 1912 on vergetee paper with water signs in Gothic type, illustrated by Arthur Rackham, and a 1929 British edition, the first edition published with Carroll's illustrations.
The collector has the world's largest collection of Russian editions of Alice - over 100; the few missing ones include five of seven prerevolutionary editions.
"My dream is to acquire all the native editions," says Rushailo.
Apart from the books and original illustrations to them, Rushailo has been collecting original sketches of costumes and sets, photographs of scenes and posters of plays staged after Alice in theatres located in seven countries, catalogues of various collections and exhibitions, magazine and newspaper stories about Carroll and his books, records in different languages, audio and video cassettes with feature films, animated cartoons, plays and other materials as well as postcards and stamps of different countries pertaining to Carroll's work.
It is not surprising that an engineer should be fascinated by Carroll, as Lewis Carroll was the pen name of the Oxford mathematician Charles Lutwidge Dodgeson. Rushailo first met Alice in his childhood when he read a 1920 edition of the book. Later, as a student of the mathematics-mechanics department of Moscow University, Rushailo was introduced to the unique linguistic abilities of Humpty Dumpty by Yuri Manin, then a mathematician and philologist and now an outstanding algebraist and academician recognized world-wide, when Manin read to Rushailo his own translation of the famous poem from Through the Looking Glass, "Jabberwocky".
The Museum of Ex-Libris,
Pushechnaya Ulitsa 7/5; tel. 928-2998. Alexander Rushailo would like to exhibit his collection in the West and is looking for a sponsor. He may be reached at 360-7404.