Can You Guess What This Soviet Poster Is Trying To Tell You?

«Вредители льна.» Внизу: «Плодитесь, размножайтесь и наполняйте землю.»
Dmitrii Moor, “The Flax Pests.” On the bottom: “Be fruitful, multiply and replenish the earth.” P-05, Print Collection 18: Early Soviet Posters.

Early Soviet posters aimed to end the Old Regime in every way, and that included religion. The poster above is a part of the collection of 48 Soviet propaganda posters from the 1920s and 1930s. This fascinating collection includes anti-religious and anti-capitalist messages, as well as instructional posters on the new ways of Soviet childcare and parenting. Many of them explicitly criticized the clergy, blaming them for clouding the minds of the masses with distracting messages.

«Паси овца моя.» Dmitrii Moor, “Herd my sheep.” P-07, Print Collection 18: Early Soviet Posters.

The previous version of the finding aid for this collection included a note for Poster #5 (P-05), the first image in this post, describing it as “Image of God creating pests.” However, it is unlikely that this man was meant to be God. It was not common for Soviet posters to do so, since according to Soviet communism, there was no God. So any form of religion and faith was depicted as the clergy or figures that that religion itself used, like Jesus, the Holy Spirit, and angels. Sometimes propaganda portrayed it as Jesus riding on a tank, see the image below.

«Мирные намерения Господа Нашего Иисуса Христа. » На перьях написано: «Мир!!»
Внизу на газетах написано: «Форвертс, Тайм, руль, Письмо Зиновьева..» Dmitrii Moor, “Peaceful Intentions of Our Lord Christ.” On the feathers, it says, “Peace!!” On the bottom, the newspapers say, “Time, Forwards, Rule, The Zinoviev letter…” P-03, Print Collection 18: Early Soviet Posters.

So considering that the majority of the posters in this collection condemned Orthodox Christianity specifically, could the man from Poster 5 be a priest? Do the insects represent enemies of the people or God’s punishment? Or does the poster literally refer to bad harvests? Most of the time these posters portray religious authorities as conniving, as opposed to this whimsical-looking man. Or could it be God in general? Bezbozhnik newspaper sometimes portrayed a somewhat similar-looking man as God. Could this be a scene from some religious text or does this deal with collectivization? Share your thoughts with us!

Razmak Brigade in India (1936 to 1939 OR 1939 to 1945)

P1100612 I was just looking through a photograph album documenting the Razmak Brigade in current day Pakistan that Clémence Scouten recently processed and my interest was sparked.  We have loads of photograph albums of the British Army in India before Indian independence in 1947, but very few of them actually document army life in that region.  For the most part, from their photograph albums, the soldiers APPEAR to be on vacation, traveling about an exotic land.  I am sure that that was not the case, but you sure would not know it from what they chose to document!  However, this photograph album of an unknown unit in the British Army is definitely military based.  What I cannot figure out, though, is if it is from the Waziristan campaign from 1936 to 1939 or from World War II.  My questions arose when I saw that there are no photographs of Indian army soldiers–only British, and there are a few photographs of local Waziri armed men not in uniform.

The creator of this album did not help us much … not one photograph in the album is captioned.  Moreover, I cannot find any insignia on uniforms that helps (although I would certainly not claim to be an expert on any kind of uniform or other military identification system).  There are a few photographs of vehicles and tanks and I am really hoping someone can take one look at them and let me know if we are talking WWII or pre WWII!

During the Waziristan campaign, the British Army fought against the Fakir of Ipi from 1936 to 1939.  According to an article in the Telegraph, “Fakir, born Mirza Ali Khan in the village of Ipi in 1898, was a mullah who managed, after centuries of internecine conflict, to unite the warring tribes of the mountainous province of Waziristan.”  In late 1936, the British moved troops through the Khaisora Valley, from the garrison at Razmak to the east, but the troops were attacked and forced to retreat, which increased support for the Fakir of Ipi.  As a result the British increased the number of troops (both British and Indian) in the area to reinforce the garrisons at Razmak, Bannu, and Wana.  The British Army faced guerrilla warfare and the Fakir of Ipi was never captured.

During World War II, many newly formed brigades were sent to the North West Frontier before they were sent to Africa, Burma or Italy.  It is possible that the soldiers depicted in this album are from any of the following units: the 1st Leicestershire Regiment, the 1st Royal Warwickshire Regiment, the 2nd Suffolk Regiment, the 1st Queen’s Royal Regiment, the 2nd King’s Own Scottish Borderers, the 7th York and Lancaster Regiment, or the 1st Wiltshire Regiment.

It seems that the photographers of these photos were Kalia and Sharma and that they may have made copies and sold them to the soldiers.  I found exact copies of some of the photographs here.

P1100610One more question:  does anyone have any sense of why there would be young YOUNG men in uniform in the British Army … these boys look like they could be about 12 to me! Your help will be greatly appreciated!



NOTE:  Thanks to information from Peter Morwood, we now know that this is the Waziristan campaign from 1936 to 1938.  (his information is in a comment!) Thanks for making our description better!

A Maddening Stamp

[This stamp has been solved!  It is the stamp of 20th-century Paris bookseller Arthur Lauria. Many thanks to Jasmin and Mitch Fraas for solving the mystery!]

Stamps should be easy to identify. You don’t have to decipher bad handwriting. You are more likely to find information about people, libraries or businesses who stamp their books since, presumably, they have collections large enough to make designing and purchasing a stamp worthwhile. [I say “presumably” because, as far as I know, nobody has ever wanted to find out who owned all of the Dell Yearling paperbacks proudly stamped “From the library of R.R.K.”] Of course, you expect a hefty challenge when stamps have only an owner’s coat of arms or initials, but when there is both a name and a place on the stamp, the mystery should be solvable. Right?


This Red Circular Stamp first appeared in Rare Book Cataloging a little over a year ago. It was smudged and blurry so I took a picture and crossed my fingers that the stamp would show up elsewhere in the collection.

It did. Several times.

And we still can’t read it.

We can say with confidence that the word on the bottom is “Paris.” On shakier ground, we speculate that the initial is an “A” and that perhaps, just maybe, the last name begins “Lab…”

It’s frustrating, and a little surprising, that every instance of this stamp in our collection is unreadable. I’m starting to wonder if the owner specifically asked that the stamp be designed this way or if the stamp maker routinely sold his stock at significant discount.

If you recognize this stamp, please leave a comment here or on our Flickr provenance identification site.

Cataloging Conundrum: Unidentified Coat of Arms

We haven’t been able to identify the coat of arms in this bookplate.  It is found in our copy of Bernardino Campelli’s Delle historie di Spoleti : sopplimento di quelle del regno d’Italia nella parte, che tocca al ducato Spoletino, à principi di esso, & alla città, che ne fù capo (Spoleto: Giovanni Domenico Ricci, 1672). Since this is a history of Spoleto, I thought the arms might be associated with that city, but the Spoleto arms are quite different.  All I know for sure is that the arms belong to someone who is both a prelate (because of the ecclesiastical hat with tassels) and a member of the nobility.  The crown looks–to me–like that of a marquess, but this is heraldry and I could be very, very wrong.

(In fact, the only thing I’m ever certain about when it comes to heraldry is that, after hours of research, I will know less about the subject than I did before.  I will spare you the sad tale of when I thought the cap of maintenance was an old ducal hat–except to say that English monarchs would have been shocked by the suddenly very large number of dukes rattling about the country.)

If you can identify these arms please leave a comment here or on our Flickr provenance identification site (where the image is much sharper).