Eisenstein’s library in Moscow

These photographs show rare glimpses of marginalia in Sergei Eisenstein’s books as he comments on and argues with (in any number of languages!) the books he read. The photos were taken by Ada Ackerman, co-editor with Luka Arsenjuk of the forthcoming caboose volume Reading with Sergei Eisenstein, in Eisenstein’s study as it has been reconstructed and preserved by the Eisenstein Centre in Moscow. The authors and editors of this book, part of the series Reading with Filmmakers, will explore this marginalia in their discussions of the books Eisenstein read and their influence on his own writings and films.

Many thanks to Naum Kleiman and Artyom Solin of the Eisenstein Centre in Moscow for their assistance to Ada and their support of the caboose project. These photos may be reproduced with permission and acknowledgement of their source: Ada Ackerman / Eisenstein Centre / caboose.


The following seven photographs were taken of marginalia in Eisenstein’s copy of Anita Brenner’s Idols behind Altars (New York: Payson and Clarke, 1929), acquired 1 December 1931 in Mexico, where it was dedicated to him by its author, a Mexican-born and American-educated historian of Mexican art. In the second photograph we can see Eisenstein’s habit of signing and dating each book he acquired.

The next photos shows a page from Blaise Cendrars’ novel L’Or (Paris: Grasset, 1925) acquired 9 April 1930 during Eisenstein’s sojourn in Paris. Cendrars was a Swiss-born novelist and poet who was also the author of a short tract on the cinema, L’ABC du cinéma (1926) and of a portrait of Hollywood, Hollywood: La Mecque du cinéma (1936). L’Or has been published in English as Sutter’s Gold - which Eisenstein tried to film in Hollywood - and Hollywood: La Mecque du cinéma as Hollywood: The Mecca of Cinema.

The next three photographs show slips of paper with marginalia and doodles inserted into the pages of the French sinologist Marcel Granet’s La Pensée chinoise (Paris: La Renaissance du livre, 1934), acquired by Eisenstein on 23 January 1935.

This photograph shows an example of the memoranda Eisenstein used to select visual material he would use for his essays. In this case, his beloved Greco. Found in J. F. Willumsen, La Jeunesse du peintre El Greco (Paris: Crès, 1927), acquired 7 April 1936.

Another bookmark with a doodle and a comment. Found in Goethe, Sämtliche Werke (Collected Works) (Stuttgart: J.G. Cotta’sche Buchhandlung, 1877?), acquired 14 August 1940. The comment reads “back to Goethe!!!”. The doodle, of course, is the Taoist symbol, Taiji, for yin and yang.

The following marginalia is found in the volume Grâces d’oraison by the Reverend Père Poulain (Paris: Beauchesne, 1931 [1901]), acquired 2 February 1932 in Mexico. Published in English in 1951 as The Graces of Interior Prayer: A Treatise on Mystical Theology, the book, approved by the Church, is just that, a discussion of mystical spiritual and religious experiences such as revelations.

Finally, these last two images show marginalia in Konstantin Stanislavski’s An Actor Prepares (London: G. Bles, 1936), acquired 2 May 1937. This volume was published initially in English, and Eisenstein, despite his early antipathy towards Stanislavski’s system, evidently made an effort to obtain it soon after its release, perhaps a sign of his changing views of Stanislavski’s work.