Transworld has pre-empted The Lost Pianos of Siberia by Sophy Roberts, a story of the "forgotten" instruments and of Siberia, its people and its musical legacy.
Doug Young pre-empted UK and Commonwealth rights from Sophie Lambert at Conville & Walsh. North American rights have been sold to Morgan Entrekin at Grove Atlantic. Transworld will publish as a Doubleday hardback in Spring 2019.
The book will recount, from the 1700s when Catherine the Great embraced the craze for pianos, how the production of pianos moved eastwards from London, Paris and Vienna to Moscow and St Petersburg, ending up in far-flung locations including Siberia. Painting Siberia as a hostile, snow covered landscape, a place where armies set up forts as a juncture between east and west, still inhabited by wild tigers and bears, yet connected to the rest of Russia by the Trans-Siberian Railway, it observes: peppered throughout this much-maligned expanse are pianos.
In this context, Roberts will fuse nature writing, travelogue and memoir, as an "original, lyrical exploration of the mysterious allure of Siberia".
Roberts said: "Siberia hooked me like a burr the first moment I set foot in it. To have the passion and support of two such formidable publishing houses with this ambitious project is more than I could have hoped for when I found one of the first pianos wallowing in a garage in Irkutsk that inspired me to keep on digging into the story. The next two years of research are going to be chilly, challenging and probably frustrating, but I have no doubt that the affection I first felt for Siberia will endure, in spite of its dark history."
Lambert said: "It's rare for an editor to jump on a project with the passion and enthusiasm that Doug did, and I know he and the marvellous Transworld team will ensure that this extraordinary book reaches the broad audience it deserves."
Roberts is an award-winning journalist based in England whose work focuses on "the wild places", from Papua New Guinea to Central Africa. She began her career assisting the writer Jessica Mitford, and trained in journalism at Columbia University in New York, and, for 10 years, was editor-at-large for the US edition of Departures magazine. She is currently special correspondent for the US edition of Condé Nast Traveler.