Essay contributed by Dan Bowen. [ Book has sold.]

Илиодор.  Великая Сталинградская Марфа.  Нью Иорк, 1943.

Iliodor.   The Great Stalingrad Martha.  New York: Colonial Printing and Publishing Co., 1943.

Printed red wrapper, some rubbing to edges, sunning to spine, and some fading and soiling. Handwritten note in Russian from Iliodor to Igor Sikorsky tipped in on front blank. The note translates: “To my kindhearted and dear Igor Ivanovich Sikorsky to remember the sinful and humble Iliodor. New York.” Sikorsky, 1889-1972, a legendary Russian–​American aviation pioneer, businessman, and inventor largely credited with the invention of the helicopter, maintained close ties to the White Russian communities in and around NYC.

Rare Russian language reminiscence written by Sergei Michailovich Trufanov (formerly Hieromonk Iliodor, 1880-1952) , a lapsed hieromonk (a monk who is also an ordained priest) of the Russian Orthodox Church, a charismatic preacher, a panslavist, an actor and author of one of the first books on Gregory Rasputin. He was ordained in 1903 at the St. Petersburg Theological Academy. As described below, Iliodor is credited with orchestrating the assassination attempt which left Rasputin wounded and forced him and many of his followers into exile.

At the Academy, he met Father Georgy Apollonovich Gapon, founder of the Assembly of Russian Factory and Mill Workers of St. Petersburg, (which was financially supported by the Russian Secret Police). Fr. Gapon would organize and lead the procession to present a petition to Tsar Nicholas II on January 9, 1905. This procession, initially authorized by the police, was attacked by them in what became known as Bloody Sunday; hundreds of people were shot or trampled by the Cossacks. This incident gave impetus to the 1905 Revolution. Little more than a year after Bloody Sunday, Gapon would be garroted on the streets of Petrograd.

Through Gapon, Iliodor met Rasputin and through him was invited to preach to Nicholas and Alexandra at Peterhof Palace. There he caused a scandal by preaching in favor of land reform, a policy at odds with the Tsar and his government. The Holy Synod banned Iliodor from preaching, but he was supported by Rasputin and the Tsar himself. Instead, he was assigned to the region of Volhynia on the northern border of Ukraine. There he became part of the Panslavic movement. He was quickly again forbidden to preach, but the ban was overturned through the intercession of his bishop and he was assigned to the city of Tsaritsyn, where he established the Monastery of the Holy Spirit. For a third time, he was banned from preaching and this time exiled to the city of Minsk. He was then invited to Tsarskoye Selo, where he met with the Tsarina. A year later, after again being exiled, he was invited back to Tsarskoye Selo; this time to meet the Tsar. Five days after this meeting, he was raised to the rank of archimandrite.

In 1912, Iliodor began a campaign to blacken Rasputin’s reputation. His campaign was supposedly based on letters from the Tsarina to Rasputin; letters implying she was his lover. Iliodor had somehow gotten hold of these letters and presented them to the Tsar, after first leaking them to the press. After this incident he renounced the Russian Orthodox Church and was defrocked.

In the summer of 1914, he encouraged a once beautiful woman whose nose had been eaten away by syphilis named Khioniya Kozmishna Guseva to kill Rasputin. While she succeeded in stabbing Rasputin, he survived, and the former Iliodor fled the country, dressed as a woman, with help from Maxim Gorky, taking his voluminous set of papers on Rasputin with him.

In 1916, he published The Mad Monk of Russia, Iliodor: Memoirs and Confessions of Sergei Michailovich Trufanoff which dealt in large part with Rasputin. The book formed much of the basis for the, now lost, silent film The Fall of the Romanoffs. It was released in September 1917 (just 6 months after Nicholas abdicated). In this film, Iliodor played himself.

(That’s Iliodor playing Iliodor)

He would return to what had become the Soviet Union in 1918 and live again in Tsaritsyn until 1922, when he moved his family to New York City. He would live in that city for the remainder of his life. There he became a Baptist and, divorced and broke, worked as a janitor for the Metropolitan Life Company.

The Russian biographer and historian Edvard Radzinsky could only find a copy of this “most rare” book in the New York Public Library when he was researching his book The Rasputin File. The book, Martha of Stalingrad, is a memoir of Iliodore’s years in the city that, at the time it was written, was known as Stalingrad, the site of Germany’s greatest defeat in World War II. Before being named for the “Man of Steel,” the city had been known by the name Tsaritsyn, and today is known as Volgagrad.

In the book”, Radzinsky writes, “Iliodor says that it was he who decided to take Rasputin’s life. At [the monastery he had founded] ‘New Galilee’, he gathered his flock by the banks of the river. Around four hundred people came. ‘The congregation chose the three most beautiful young women … Those three beauties,’ Iliodor writes, ‘were supposed to lure Rasputin and kill him.’ But Khionia Guseva, who was present, said, ‘Why ruin beautiful women whose lives are ahead of them? I am a wretched woman and of no use to any one…I alone shall bring about his execution. Father, give me your blessing to stab him as the ancient prophet stabbed the false prophets.’ Iliodor gave her his blessing for the murder.”

Iliodor titled his memoirs The Great Martha of Stalingrad after a woman, known to him and to Rasputin, named Marfa Semenovna Medvenskaiya. She is better known as Blessed Martha of Tsaritsyn. During her lifetime, she was known for her prophesies; predicting the Russo-Japanese War, The First World War, The Russian Revolution, The Death of the Romanovs, and The Great Patriotic War. This book has what is believed to be the only photographic image of the prophetess (facing p. 8).

Biography of Nicholas II, in Russian,By a White Russian Author Who Turned RedAnd Was Later Executed by Stalin

И. М. Василевский (Нe-Буква). Николай II. Петроград, Москва: Издательство “Петроград,”1923.

I. M. Vasilevsky (No-Letter). Nicholas II. Petrograd, Moscow: Petrograd Publishing House, 1923.

Printed wrapper, covers foxed, front cover detached, edgeworn, with “Printed in Russia” stamped on front. 144 pp. Cover design signed lower right. From the Igor Sikorsky estate (unmarked).

Ilya Markovich Vasilevsky (1883-1938) was a Russian author and journalist. Many of his works were published under the pseudonym Нe-Буква (No Letter); a name he took in homage to another writer, a writer of Fairy Tales, who also went by the name Vasilevskyand the pseudonym Буква (Letter). Like many White Russians, he floated on the tides of the Civil War to the Crimea. From there, he immigrated to Constantinople, in 1920, and thence to Paris and Berlin. While he started off as an opponent of the Bolsheviks, he quickly saw the Specter of Communism glowing brightly and became a supporter of the Soviet government. In 1923, in the company of fellow writer Alexander N. Tolstoy (a distant relative of Leo Tolstoy, who became known by the sobriquet “Comrade Count”), he returned to Petrograd, where he published White Memoirs, a negative assessment of the memoirs of various figures on the losing side of the Civil War. Through the same publishing house, he also released his study of Nicholas II.

According to the Foreword to Nicholas II by L. Nezhdankov, this book is not a work of history, but a psychological sketch. However, Vasilevsky “managed to collect a lot of facts; small everyday touches that allow one to focus on the last Russian Autocrat. His book is not devoid of interest.”

Nezhdankov also says that Vasilevsky makes the case that Nicholas II always followed “badadvice,” not because he was weak-willed, but because he was the … instrument of a certain class worldview…. [The Tsar] only had the support of the reactionary nobility and the union oflandowners who opposed the peasantry and the working class.”

Vasilevsky was arrested on November 1, 1937 and charged with participation in a counter-revolutionary terrorist organization. He was later executed on the orders of Stalin.

Post contributed by Dan Bowen. Sources: Russian Wikipedia.

Igor Sikorsky’s Father–Child Psychologist, Educator..& white supremacist

A Book of Psychological Readings In Russian By the Father of Igor Sikorsky


Проф. И. А.  Сикорский.  Книга Жизни: Психологическая Христоматия. Southbury, CT: Alatas, 1931.


Prof. I. A. Sikorsky.  The Book of Life: A Psychological Reader. Southbury, CT: Alatas, 1931.

Post contributed by Dan Bowen.

 Ivan Alekseevich Sikorsky (1842-1919), a Russian psychiatrist and professor at the University of St. Vladimir in Kiev, was the founder of the journal Questions of Neuropsychic Medicine and Psychology, the Medical Institute for Mentally Retarded Childres and the Institute for Child Psychopathology.  He was also the father of the Russian-American aircraft designer Igor I. Sikorsky.  He rose to the rank of Active State Counselor, a position that carried with it inclusion in the hereditary nobility of the Russian Empire.


A supporter of White Supremacy, he put forth his ideas in a paper on the Russian poet Alexander Pushkin, whose great-grandfather had been born in Africa.  However, his main work was in the field of child psychology, especially children with learning disabilities.  He was a Russian nationalist who considered language, poetry, artistic creation, school, press, religion as attributes of the national soul.  During his lifetime he acquired a large library of technical literature which he bequeathed to the University of Kiev.


In 1913, Sikorsky appeared as an expert witness testifying for the prosecution in the infamous Beilis case in which a middle-aged Jewish clerk, named Mendel Beilis, who worked in a local factory, was accused in Kiev of the “ritual murder” of a 13 year old Christian boy.

According to a reporter at the time, “Professor Sikorsky, instead of a psychiatric examination, began to read from his notebook a collection of savage stories that had nothing to do with science.”  The citizens of Kiev were so incensed by Sikorsky’s testimony that there was a fear of physical reprisals against the Jewish community in the area.  He also testified that the crime “does not seem to me to be an accidental or simple” delusion, but “a complex, qualified crime, which was carefully thought out and systematically executed.”  The Journal of Neuropathology and Psychiatry asserted that “the venerable Russian scientist compromised Russian science and covered his gray head with shame.”  A fellow psychiatrist noted at the time that “never have psychiatrists been so unanimous and principled in manifesting their disgust for the use of psychiatry for political purposes.”  One of the lawyers for the defense in the Beilis case was Alexander Kerensky, later to be Prime Minister of the Provisional Government in the days after the February Revolution in 1917.  In spite of the immense pressure from the Tsar, the Russian Orthodox Church and the civil authorities in Kiev to find Beilis guilty, he was acquitted by the jury.  This verdict did not stop the Synod of the Church from constructing a church to honor the victim.  The young boy’s death had nothing to do with religion.  He had simply seen a trove a stolen goods at the home of one of his school mates.  The mother of his friend, who was the leader of the gang of thieves, saw that the boy paid for his “crime” by stabbing him 47 times.  Sikorsky appealed to the police to get people to stop criticizing him, and a number of Russian medical societies were closed for this reason.  It was said the criticizing Sikorsky had almost risen to the level of a crime against the state.


Sikorsky was not deterred.  He offered an opinion on another case of Jewish ritual murder, the Fastov case.  But, there it turned out the victim was Jewish and the murderer a common Russian criminal.


The book contains 365 excerpts from psychological and literary texts.


Sources: Russian Wikipedia.  Orlando Figes. A People’s Tragedy: A History of the Russian Revolution.  New York: Viking 1996.  Richard Pipes.  The Russian Revolution.  New York: Alfred A. Knopt, 1990.  Photo of Mendel Beilis: United States Holocaust Memorial Museum, courtesy of Morris Rosen.



The War at Home: Carl Nancken’s “Normandie” Binder

The post was written by intern Elise Plyler.

During September and October of 1945, the German Imperial Navy made repeated and brutal attempts to overtake the British base in Laurentic. Over the course of four battles, the British forces were devastated by the German fleet, resulting in a surrender agreement on October 2. This agreement called for the surrender of not only Laurentic, but Mohawk Island and all remaining sea units controlled by Great Britain and her ally, Canada. Left with no other option, the terms were agreed to by Surrenderthe commander of the British navy, Admiral Ronald La Rocca. A note at the corner of the document coldly states, “Failure to comply with these terms means total destruction of everything British.”

If this seems completely bizarre, it is because these battles never really happened. They took place only in the minds of fifteen-year-old Carl Nancken and his friends. Between the years 1942 and 1945, while World War II raged on in Europe, across the Atlantic a group of teenage boys were playing out fictional naval battles in a suburban home on Long Island.

NormandieThe documentation of these battles is found in a black binder titled “Normandie.” Also archived within this binder are pages of detailed backstory, fleet lists, tactical maps and treaties dictating the rules of engagement. They are written out in pencil and ballpoint pen in a schoolboy’s immature cursive script and riddled with spelling errors, but the whole project shows remarkable imagination. Many of the pages are topped with a hand-drawn letterhead and there is a particularly comprehensive diagram of a disguised warship called “USS Wolf” which, as its name suggests, was meant to serve as a wolf in sheep’s clothing and pose as a merchant ship. At one point in the games chronology, Germany and Holland make an agreement that Germany, in exchange for the oil to power their fleets and their country, will provide 8 cents per month to the “Netherlands” along with naval protection. These transactions are performed with the use of “checks” written out on strips of notebook paper.GermanCheck

In addition to props like the German “checks,” the binder contains drawn maps of the play area. The earliest map, kept in a section titled “Naval Museam” (sic) clearly shows the upper floor of a home. The rooms are given names such as “Hall Sea” and “Tile Sea” for the bathroom. Bases are marked with common household objects and called “Shoe Island” and “Book Island.”  Continue reading The War at Home: Carl Nancken’s “Normandie” Binder

The Man of Myth and Legend: Lincoln Kirstein, Private First Class

This post was written by intern Jessica Zaccagnini.

It is an unusual occurrence when a movie can spark interest in an actual historical event. Often, people are content with the Hollywood version of a time or event in history and do not seek any further information about the factors that made the event Hollywood-worthy. Monuments Men, directed by George Clooney, is a movie that triggers further curiosity into how such a story made it onto the silver screen. Monuments Men depicts a group of middle-aged art connoisseurs sent on a special mission during World War II to collect art from around Europe that was stolen by the Nazis. Though it is clearly stated that the movie was based on true events, it is surprising to learn just how true the movie is.

As it turns out, there truly was a branch of the military specifically dedicated to collecting the most historical and valuable art that was pilfered by the Nazis via orders from Hitler. The U.S Arts and Monuments Commission was established in 1943 during Franklin D. Roosevelt’s presidency. The commission was largely founded by David Finley and Supreme Court Justice Owen Roberts. About 345 men and women made up this branch of the military and over the years following the end of the war, they collected over five million pieces of artwork.

Borrowed from http://www.monumentsmenfoundation.org/
Borrowed from http://www.monumentsmenfoundation.org/

The John Bale Book Company has a collection of writing from one Monuments Man, Lincoln Kirstein, who also happens to be portrayed in the movie. In the Hollywood movie, Bob Balaban plays the character Preston Savitz who is largely based on Kirstein, an art-culture icon. As the movie suggests, all of the men that made up the branch in real life had a job or an intense personal investment in the art world and their credentials made them experts in the war effort to get the stolen art back to its proper place and Kirstein was no different. Continue reading The Man of Myth and Legend: Lincoln Kirstein, Private First Class

JoBa Cafe: Embracing Change

This post was written by Ede Reynolds. To see her other posts, click here.

Downtown Waterbury is always in flux. Consequently, so are we at the John Bale Book Company. The current changes include the leaving of People’s Bank this summer. We’ll be losing many old friends (and customers) with this change. Recently, the morning paper announced Peter Abare-Brown will be leaving his post as Director of Human Resources for the city. Pete’s been a stalwart customer and close friend (and our de facto marketing director on the side). Yesterday, another old friend and customer from out of town stopped by after interviewing for a downtown job.

Change happens.

The retail profession is not for the timid. You have to love challenges and be a bit of a gambler to boot. So why do it?

For Dan and me it was to construct a way of life that we both enjoy. We wanted independence; we wanted to see if we could succeed in building something; and we wanted a quiet life with strong community ties. We have that and more. We have a network of friends we see everyday who share the good times and bad and who are as committed to having a good, friendly city.

On Wednesday, April 22, our bookstore café hosted the Feast, an international grassroots event that links participating communities across the world. Participants sit down to a meal and pose creative solutions to community challenges. It is a chance to do good, share the results with other communities and get ideas for ways to make your environment better. Local laundromat owner Paul Tillotson suggested we try it and Waterbury was accepted into the Feast network.

That same night the city was hosting an open meeting for the public to share ideas on how to improve downtown.

Being a local business, we can’t help but want to improve the city and its economy. It’s been a core of our mission. We don’t just sell books or coffee, we participate. The bookstore has been a wonderful vehicle for helping us find like-minded people who share this outlook.

Arri Sendzimier recently announced she was moving to Montana to live close to her family. She said she’d miss the “gang” at John Bale, of which she’s a member. And we will miss her. This past Mardi Gross she helped manage the crafts tent with the Brass City Charter School volunteers. My favorite photo of her is where she is walking around wearing a giant pumpkin costume. How can you not be happy to spend your days with people like that?

Flux, a challenge. We are meeting the current changes with new ideas like our Saturday afternoon lyceum programs. We host a high tea on that day as well. On Thursdays our great friend Marty Q performs live during lunch.

We crafted a life and found it to be good.

“Damned to Everlasting Fame:” Historical Gossip in William Combe’s “Diabo-Lady”

This post was written by intern Elise Plyler.

When I was first introduced to “The Diabo-Lady” by William Combe, the title immediately caught my eye. Its full title reads, “The Diabo-Lady: or, A Match in Hell. A Poem. Dedicated to the Worst Woman in Her Majesty’s Dominion,” and seemed to be the product of a jilted lover lashing out at a woman who slighted him. What lies behind the dramatic title, though, is much juicier.

Diabo CoverThe poem, printed in 1777, follows a simple narrative: The worst man in His Majesty’s Dominion, has just been crowned Satan in Combe’s earlier poem, “The Diaboliad.” The new King of Hell decides that he should marry, and sends his minions across the world to find the most sinful women and bring them back to compete for a position as Queen of Hell (Combe 1-3). Conveniently, they find quite a selection of such women from the common gossip of eighteenth-century England. Each woman presents herself and tells Satan about her sins and misdeeds in order to convince him that she is the most evil woman in the world.

One of the fascinating aspects of this poem is that the women presenting themselves as potential brides for Satan were real women. None of the women are named in the poem except with single initials and dashes or asterisks, ostensibly to protect the reputation of the women who were featured in the poem. However, the identities of these high profile women would have been easily determined by its contemporary audience. Horace Bleackley, who put together a convenient identification key for “Diabo-Lady,” found that “most of the… names appear in the ‘Tete-a-Tete Histories’ of The Town and Country Magazine” (Bleakley). During the same time “The Diabo-Lady” was printed, “scandal sheets” such as “Town and Country” documented the stories of badly behaved, high profile men and women in much the same way as modern tabloids (Grose). The “Tete a Tete” stories in particular covered recent affairs between members of high society and made the stories common knowledge among the public.

Continue reading “Damned to Everlasting Fame:” Historical Gossip in William Combe’s “Diabo-Lady”


This post was written by intern Jess Zaccagnini. To see the first part of her post, click here.

Eva’s train to Switzerland included a hefty meal of “fish, roast veal, potato, string beans, cheese, pastry, and a fresh peach.” The customs check-point in Basel, Switzerland seems to have been more lax than in Paris; the officer asked if the girls had Mountainany cigars or cigarettes and let them pass when they said no—“that’s all there was to it.” The mountain ranges seemed to have impressed Eva the most as she describes “how wonderful [it was] to look out and see those great touring peaks outlined against the sky.” The scenery and the quiet soothed Eva as she began to write and reflect on how noisy it was in Paris.

The girls took an Alpine tour on their first full day in Switzerland, which circled around the mountain closest to their hotel, on the Lucerne Lake. The tour bus ascended four thousand feet around the steep, narrow cliff sides. As they approached the infamous Devil’s Bridge, Eva describes how “we could hardly brace ourselves against the wind to walk. And girl at flaciercold! Just about froze.” Soon they rode above the snow line to see “great fields of daises, buttercups, and many others… the sight of all the colors against the snow was spectacular.” An attractive destination spot for this particular part of Montreux, Switzerland is the Rhone Glacier, the largest in the Alps contributing to several surrounding rivers and lakes including Lake Geneva. Eva describes the glacier as “a huge jagged mass of blue ice.” The other girls got the chance to go down through the glacier but Eva chose to stay behind because she “[didn’t] like to feel trapped.”

Small Alpine towns dot the mountainsides that over-look the glacier forglacier sight-seers to stay. The girls stayed at a hotel in one such town— Gotthard-Furka-Grimsel. Eva describes the loud “roar of the melting snow as it started to form the Rhone River.” Her night at the glacier was cold; she needed to sleep with all her clothes on and in the morning she woke up with her “neck as stiff as a board.” Eva also learned that she dislikes Swiss coffee, and their hot chocolate “was made out of goat’s milk, and it tasted like a stewed bransack” (a simmered bag of grain).

On their decent down the 5,000 foot mountain, the girls stopped in the town that circled Lake Geneva and visited the Castle of Chillon. The Castkecastle dates back to at least 1005 where it was used as a Roman guarding post and later as a sixteenth century prison. Eva did not go inside the castle because “that night club scared [her] so [she] dared not go in anywhere again.”

At this point in her trip, Eva is two weeks from being “out on the Atlantic on the way home” and she almost cannot wait to be there as she “hopes there will be peas and radishes” when she arrives home.
The last leg of their journey starts with arriving in Germany on July 20th. The train ride to Germany was “hot and dirty, not much like the Swiss trains.” The girls had a good laugh over what they were served for supper aboard the train: “soup, steak, potato, vegetable salad, a big piece of cheese (for which [they] needed a gas mask), a pretzel, and a bottle of beer.” What else could one expect of a German meal in the 1930s?


Eva and her Scrapbook: A 1932 Trans-Atlantic Vacation (Part 1)

The post was written by intern Jess Zaccagnini.

20150317_170410Scrapbooking is a hobby that dates back to the early fifteenth century and has gone through several transitions in popularity. Though the art of scrapbooking has been modified with the rise of social media, crafters would argue that scrapbooking is making a come-back, reflected in an increase in popularity and sales over the last few years. Nowadays, it is so easy to snap a picture and caption it on Instagram, to be saved forever in the “cloud” of the All Mighty Internet.

While virtual scrapbooking saves a lot of space, there is something to be said for the physical artifacts saved from another time and place far removed from one’s own. Upon finding a scrapbook from a Ms. Eva D. Lother, we are taken back to the summer of 1932 as she embarks on a trans-Atlantic journey with her friends while they explore six European countries in about one month.20150317_170438

Eva Lother comes from Lakeport, New Hampshire. Though her age is never specifically mentioned in her scrapbook, it is likely she is a young woman perhaps in her mid to late twenties. At the time of Eva’s departure in 1932, the Great Depression was devastating the country; Eva’s ability to go on such a trip may means she came from a wealthy family. In fact, she makes no mention of the Depression in any of her letters.

First Boat PicEva begins her journey by arriving to New York on July 1, 1932 to board the tourist steamer S. S Westward for a ten day excursion across the Atlantic, obtaining a ticket for about $250.00 (according to Dave Manuel’s inflation calculator, this would be about $4,300 in 2015). In her first letter to her mother, Eva describes the mob of people boarding the ship and family members waving goodbye in the steaming heat of a July afternoon, “The lady on the statue of Liberty waved bye to us and we were off!”

Continue reading Eva and her Scrapbook: A 1932 Trans-Atlantic Vacation (Part 1)

JoBa Cafe: Rethinking Our Mission

This post was written by Ede Reynolds. To see her other posts, click here.

Bookstores used to be a place where you went to discover something new or something that would entertain you– much like a library except you got to pay for the book and keep it forever. That’s what it was like when we opened our doors 22 years ago. In the ensuing years the Internet changed all that. Now, much of what you read is online, and in the case of Google Books, it is for free. This has forced bookstores and libraries to rethink their purpose in the community.

Our company has more than 80,000 books listed for sale online, books that sit in boxes on shelves in a warehouse. When one sells, we retrieve it and ship it out to every part of the world (even Antarctica). But people still, on occasion, come into the store to buy books the old-fashioned way and that is why our first floor maintains a selection of general knowledge titles. For collectors and scholars, the second floor contains older, more specialized titles and bindings. And there is a third component, those things that sell at trade shows to serious collectors.

So, if most people buy books online, what is the role of the bookstore? Economic development people like bookstores because it hearkens to a more genteel time. Bookstores announce, “This is a literate town, one that appreciates learning”‘ But bookstores aren’t just “window dressing.” We have a role in the new computer-connected world.

Continue reading JoBa Cafe: Rethinking Our Mission

Antiquarian, Rare, and Out-of-Print Books