The Rare and Extraordinary History of Holy Russia  

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Train wreck at Montparnasse (October 22, 1895) by Studio Lévy and Sons.
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Train wreck at Montparnasse (October 22, 1895) by Studio Lévy and Sons.

Histoire pittoresque dramatique et caricaturale de la Sainte Russie, d'après les chroniqueurs et historiens Nestor Nikan Sylvestre Karamsin Ségur etc.[1] (1854) is an illustrated political satire by Gustave Doré.

The book features an number of experimental and metatextual illustrations. There are two entirely black illustrations, one in which Russian deputies are plunged in "sombres cachots" another by way of incipit when Russia "se perd dans les ténèbres de l’Antiquité"[2] (loses itself in the darkness of antiquity).

A red splodge[3] represents the reign of Ivan the Terrible.

There is also an intentionally left blank page[4][5] representing a century where nothing happens:

"The next century being as tedious an affair as the last one, I would be frightened of setting my reader against this book from the start, wearying him with a plethora of dull sketches. However, my publisher, being a conscientious man, has insisted that I leave spaces at this point to show how an astute historian may render all things palatable while excluding nothing."

The format is viewed as an early comic book.

The text was translated to English by Daniel Weissbort.

Praise by Arthur V K

No, his _Histoire de la Sainte Russie_ is da shit! He made this incredible 200-page GN at the ripe age of 22, when "La douce France" was involved in the Crimean war. Dore' was asked by the authorities to collect in one volume all "idees recues" and prejudices regarding Russia, so that French readers would be comforted with the idea that by fighting these Slavic barbarians they were saving European civilization. This politically, historically and hilariously incorrect vision of Russia kicks off with (fake) quotes from Horatius "O rus, quando te aspiciam!", Rabelais and Confucius (in Chinese!), followed by a completely black panel, subtitled "The beginning of the history of Russia is lost in the darkness of Antiquity" (the next panel is a deliberately vague drawing, "Ce n'est que vers le IVe siecle qu'elle commence a se dessiner" [couldn't think of an English equivalent]). Ending in 1854, when another Napoleon must revenge the defeat of his great predecessor, this story is riddled with graphic inventions that flabbergasted and delighted this (modern) reader; e.g. a pseudo-scientific text about the slavic race is "attacked" by black ink flowing out of an upturned inkwell--the letters that are not covered by the ink flee to the first sentences of the page, where it's still safe![6]; the next page has 5 *empty* panels--that particular century was so uneventful, Dore' explains, "I feared, dear reader, that by heaping too many boring pictures upon you, I'd make you dislike my work from the start"; the 1542-1580 part of Ivan the Terrible's reign is told in *one* panel: a big blot of red ink. And aside from the odd calligrammatic drawing _HdlSR_ has some amazing proto-surrealist images. --Arthur V K[7]

Further reading

See also




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