Kadok from Gundulićev Venac
Historians Durković-Jakšić and Starčević consider them one of the most significant Serbian publishers, booksellers and printers. They established publishing of schoolbooks and children literature. Many of our generations grew up with their library ”Youth Literature Classics” (Kadok). In a quarter of a century, they published more than a thousand titles. Then, in 1948, their property was expropriated and their work forbidden. Today, six and a half centuries later, their successors are trying to correct the injustice and start anew

By: Jovo Bajić
Photo: Ćuković Archive and Jovo Bajić

Old single-floor house, over a hundred years old. 10, Gundulićev Venac Street, Dorćol, Belgrade. Squeezed between newer and larger buildings, this house with a somewhat dilapidated façade, with an old gate, doesn’t indicate any specificity or famousness. If things were better than they are, there would be a plate stating that the famous Belgrade booksellers and publishers, the Ćuković family, used to live and work here, with a great contribution to Serbian culture. From late XIX century to World War II, more than a thousand of most different titles were prepared and printed under the roof of this house.
Dragutin and Radomir Ćuković, father and son, designed the publishing of schoolbooks and developed Serbian publishing for children. In this very place, under the roof of this house, Radomir Ćuković designed the famous Kadok library (”Youth Literature Classics”) which many of our generations were formed and grew up with.
The old house was built in 1908 by Radomir Ćuković, bookseller, who gained a name and significant capital among the then publishers in Serbia. The house was designed both for living and working with books. A warehouse for books was made in the yard. It was later turned into a living area, and another larger warehouse was built in the garden behind the house.
Time has not changed the edifice too much. Looking from the street, the old house is the same as it was before World War I. The same old façade, metal gate, front part. Dragutin’s successors: grandson Dragomir, Radomir’s son, with his wife Marica (both pensioners) and daughter Angelina today live in the part where the warehouse originally was. The furniture in the apartment is old and stylish, as it used to be in better Belgrade homes, with signs of Viennese carpenter workshops. A big vine, planted by Dragutin, is in the old garden. In the bottom is the second warehouse for books, expropriated from the Ćuković family after World War II.
The Ćukovićs had a bookstore in Terazije, in a building which no longer exists. It was in number 16 with an inscription: Publishing Bookstore Rajković and Ćuković”. Preserved photos testify that the shop had a nice window and was well equipped. Besides schoolbooks, it also sold notebooks and paper. Not far away, in Takovska Street, the Ćukovićs opened a printing shop ”Davidović and friend”.
In the year 1948, however, the publishing of the Ćuković family was shut down by the communist authorities. Radomir Ćuković was forbidden to work with books and his bookstore, warehouse and printing shop were expropriated. Today, six and a half decades later, in the same house in Gundulićev Venac, young Angelina Ćuković, Dragutin’s great-granddaughter and Radomir’s granddaughter, attempts to revive the family tradition and begin publishing again.


Historians of old Serbian bookselling and publishing Ljubomir Durković-Jakšić, PhD and Velimir Starčević consider Dragutin Ćuković one of the most significant people in that area of business. He was born in 1873 in the village of Velika Pčelica, Leskovac county, Morava area. He came to study for an artisan in Kragujevac and spent a big portion of his education in a local bookshop. Then he moved to Belgrade, to the bookstore of Mita Đorić.
He later started his own business. With his partner Živojin Rajković, who had a grocery store in Terazije, he opened the ”publishing bookstore”. Bookstores were specific cultural institutions and trade stores, whose main business was publishing and selling their own publications. Books of other publishers were also sold, even those purchased abroad. Besides them, also sold were notebooks, paper, different administrative forms.
Dragutin Ćuković turned to publishing as well. He hired Mirko Hadživuković, born in Foča and educated in France, who knew the publishing business well. The ”Rajković and Ćuković” bookstore was intended for children from its establishing. It founded a children’s magazine School Bell, on sixteen pages. Then they started printing books. Ćuković managed to agree printing books for elementary and middle schools with educational authorities, which was a good and safe business. Besides, they printed postcards, dictionaries, maps, administrative forms.
After World War I, the business continued with even more enthusiasm. The ”Rajković and Ćuković” bookstore agreed on printing schoolbooks with the new state authorities, which brought new jobs and reputation.
Dragutin Ćuković died in 1929, and was inherited by his son Radomir, born in 1908 in Belgrade. Similar to most rich Belgrade people, Dragutin Ćuković educated his son abroad, in France. Radomir started studying economy in Paris. Since there were many Serbian students, it was easy to learn less and waste time in such a big crowd, so Radomir continued his studies in Lyon. Already then he learned a lot about publishing, because a secure job was waiting for him upon his arrival in Belgrade. When his father Dragutin died in 1929, he took over the business.


In 1932, Radomir Ćuković terminated the partnership with the Rajković family. He continued working as ”Bookstore of Radomir D. Ćuković”. Following the trends in European publishing, Radomir introduced some new ideas. Besides schoolbooks, he published titles from belles-lettres, journalism and science. In the early 1930s, he turned to younger readers of high school age and designed the Kadok library. He spoke several European languages and followed trends, which enabled him to get the best titles of youth literature and purchase publishing rights. He carefully selected translators and paid much attention to graphic design. Books were in hard color cover and the text included many well made illustrations. About forty titles were published until World War II in four editions and the books were very well received by the then youth.
During a quarter of a century of working, under two names, the Ćukovićs printed more than a thousand book titles (Dragomir Ćuković believes there were twice as much). Among them, more than a half were schoolbooks for elementary and high schools, a fourth was pedagogic and children literature, about ten percent belles-lettres and the rest were dictionaries and other publications.
Then came 1948. Forbidding of their work, expropriation. The building in Terazije, where the Publishing Bookstore ”Rajković and Ćuković” used to be, was later destroyed and a new edifice erected. The warehouse in the yard became ownership of the new company ”Jugoslovenska Knjiga”. Due to the allegedly irregular protection of the electromotor in the printing shop in Takovska Street, Radomir Ćuković was convicted to eight months of prison. He spent one part of it in Belgrade, and the other on forced labor in the vicinity of Koprivnica, Croatia. When, after he had left prison, he dropped by the printing shop, which was then state ownership, the electromotors were in the same position as before his sentence.
After serving his sentence, Radomir Ćuković got a job in publishing. He worked in ”Prosveta” and ”Jugoslovenska Knjiga”, where people appreciated his knowledge and learned from him. Some of his former workers, who started in his bookstore and printing shop, also worked with him. Since he spoke several languages, he worked in the department of purchasing foreign books for a while. Later he retired and nicely spent the rest of his old age. He died in 1990.
His son Dragomir is a chemical technician, so the publishing tradition of the Ćuković family died with Radomir’s death. Today, however, young Angelina Ćuković, in the house raised by her great-grandfather Dragutin, in which she was born too, is trying to revive it. Not many books with the name of the Publishing Bookstore ”Rajković and Ćuković” on their covers were preserved in their house, but some titles can be found in Belgrade and Novi Sad antique shops. Up to now, Angelina published several photo-type publications which were successful in the market. She dreams of printing the titles from the Kadok edition again. A request was submitted to the state to return the expropriated warehouse in the backyard, which was privatized in the meantime. <


Occupation, Forbiddance of Cyrillic Alphabet, Internment
The rising business of the Ćukovićs was stopped by World War I and Austro-Hungarian occupation. The occupation forces forbid the use of the Cyrillic alphabet in 1915 and burned all books printed in these letters. The ”Rajković and Ćuković” bookstore was also struck: the warehouse and bookstore were plundered and closed and Dragutin Ćuković was forced to internment.


Trust of the Guild
When the Booksellers’ Society was founded in 1921, with the objective to support the stands of publishers with the authorities, parliament and public, Dragutin Ćuković, who, as Velimir Starčević emphasizes, was famous for his honesty at the time, was elected its first president. He was a reputable and popular person in all cultural, educational and patriotic societies.


Renewal or Usurpation
The ”Kadok” library was renewed after World War II as well, with complete graphic design made by Radomir Ćuković, which shows what a good recipe that was. The first books from the edition appeared in early 1960s. About twenty years later, the same edition, with the same graphic design, were renewed together by ”Prosveta” and ”Delta pres” publishing shops.


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