Webster Hall

Scope and Content Note

 The Andrei Bely Writings represent a small but very important portion of the A. Bely (1880-1934) corpus of writing.  Andrei Bely (pseudonym for Boris Nikolaevich Bugaev) - Russian Symbolist poet and prosaist, literary critic and major  theoretical and philosophical thinker - was a key figure in early twentieth century modernism.   His critical and theoretical writings are as wide ranging in subject as they are ample in quantity.  The present collection reflects A. Bely's creative efforts during the last eight years of his life.

 The 1.5 linear feet of materials include: handwritten copy of Bely's unfinished manuscript The History of the Evolution of the Self-knowing Spirit; published fragment from the same manuscript; typewritten copy of the first volume of A. Bely's poetry; page proofs of one volume edition; photographs; preservation photocopies.  The bulk of the material is written in Russian, and a small amount is in German.  The materials date from 1882 until 1990, the bulk of the collection dating from 1926 to 1939.

 After Bely's death on January 8, 1934, K. N. Bugaeva (1886-1970), who was his constant companion and then wife for the last eleven years of his life, devoted her life to his legacy.  She labored for years on a series of indexes of epithets, neologisms, and word-usage in Bely's voluminous works.  She gathered and catalogued his manuscripts and correspondence and prepared a detailed description of his entire output.  She supervised the few publications of his works after his death and painstakingly preserved his extensive archives.

 The most significant series in the collection is Series I - The History of the Evolution of the Self-knowing Spirit  ("Istoriia stanovleniia samosoznaiushchei dushi") - a copy of A. Bely's manuscript transcribed by K. N. Bugaeva from the original.  This copy was made because of Bely's extremely illegible handwriting, which became progressively worse each year, and the only one who could decipher his writing was K. N. Bugaeva.  After the copy was made, K. N. Bugaeva sold the last (third) part of Bely's autograph to the Lenin Library manuscript division in Moscow (now Russian State Library) and destroyed the first two parts.
 This pivotal work reflects Bely's intensive effort to formulate a complete world view, a system that will essentially explain, or begin to explain, the entire world as it is both revealed to, and concealed from, man. The manuscript is still unpublished.

 Series II -  The Calls of Time ("Zovy vremen") - represents the typewritten copy of the first volume of poetry, compiled by Bely in 1931.   He dedicated this future edition to his wife K. N. Bugaeva "without whom the editing of the texts would not have been possible".

 Series III - Collected Poems ("Sobranie stikhotvorenii") - consists of the page proofs of the one volume edition (Moscow-Leningrad, Academia, 1935) which was banned by the Soviet censors.  It represents an attempt to expand and "update" the 1923 Berlin edition of Bely's verse.  Only the introduction, written by Anatolii Tarasenkov, ever appeared in print, and that only in 1956 in his Poetry ("Poeziia A. Belogo", 275-319).  These page proofs, which were in K. N. Bugaeva's possesion, consisted originally of 528 pages, of which 91 pages did not survive.  The commentaries compiled by K. N. Bugaeva especially for this edition provide an ideal opportunity to restore the missing pages.

 Series IV - Photographs - includes four copies of photographs of A. Bely and K. N. Bugaeva.

 RELATED MATERIAL: The Amherst Center for Russian Culture has information about A. Bely beyond that found in this collection.  Sources include: Zinaida Gippius and Dmitrii Merezhkovskii Papers.  Contact the Amherst Center for Russian Culture for further information.
 Related materials can be also found in the Russian State Library in Moscow and in the St. Petersburg Public Library.


Webster Hall