St. Petersburg: Naval Typ. 1811. Item #1192
S Prilozheniyem Slovaria Dvenadtsati Narechii Dikikh Narodov, Nabliudeniya za Stuzheyu v Verkhnekolymskom Ostroge, i Nastavleniya Dannago Kapitanu Billingsu iz Gosudarstvennoi Admiralteistv-Kollegii. Izvlecheno iz Raznykh Zurnalov… Gavrilom Sarychevym [i.e. with the addition of a vocabulary of Twelve Dialects of Savages, Observations of Frost in Verkhekolymsky Ostrog, and the Instruction Given to Captain Billings from the State Admiralty Board. Extracted from Various Journals by Gavrila Sarychev].
[2 – t.p.], iv [preface], 191 pp. Quarto. With three copper engraved plates by Kozma and Ivan Chesky, and three folding copper engraved maps. Period light brown Russian full calf, neatly rebacked in style; maroon gilt lettered morocco title label on the spine; new endpapers. Title page slightly age-toned, one plate with some minor damp staining, and one map with a minor repair of black margin, but overall a very good copy.
First edition. An indispensable addition to Martin Sauer’s and Gavriil Sarychev’s accounts of the Northeastern expedition (1785-1793) under command of Joseph Billings (ca. 1758-1806).
“Sarychev’s own description in Russian of Billings’ expedition in which he participated appeared in print in 1802. However, Sarychev was not in that part of Billings’ party which traversed the Chukchi territory overland. Therefore, his above-mentioned work does not contain any description of it. A few years later the Russian Admiralty instructed Sarychev to go over Billings’ papers and those of some of his companions and to compile a description of Billings’ trip over the Chukchi territory. The present work is the result of this research and it contains material on Alaska as well, including a valuable map and a brief vocabulary of the natives of the Aleutian Islands (various parts of them, as their languages differ), as well as the vocabulary of the inhabitants of Kadiak Island. This is a valuable addition to the description of Sarychev of his own trip (see no. 57 of this bibliography)” (Lada-Mocarski, 67).
The book contains a detailed description of Billings’ travel across the Chukotka peninsula in August 1791 – February 1792, which received only a brief overview in Sauer’s account, as he, like Sarychev, didn’t participate in this trip. There are only short notes of this leg of Billings’ travel in chapters XVIII, XX, and XXII of Sauer’s account (this one contains a “Sketch of Captain Billing’s expedition across the land of Tshutski,” based on a journal of the expedition member, pp. 319-329).
The second part of the book describes the voyage of Captain Robert Hall on the ship “Cherny Orel” (“Black Eagle”) in May-September 1791, which also received only a short mention in Sauer’s account (pp. 259-260). The ship was built on the Kamchatka River in 1790 and launched in May 1791 to replace the perished ship “Good Intention”. The account describes its construction and departure for Unalaska in May 1791. The party planned to meet another expedition ship “Slava Rossii” near Bering Island but didn’t find it there, so they proceeded to Unalaska. There they found three crew members of the “Slava Rossii” with the instruction from Billings to go to the Bering Strait and wait for them in the St. Lawrence Bay. After passing the Pribilof Islands (St. Paul’s), St. Matthew Island, and the Diomede Islands, the ship arrived at the meeting point, but didn’t find Billings there and returned to Unalaska, passing St. Lawrence Island. The account includes geographical coordinates of the coasts and islands passed and a mention of the Shelekhov’s ship which wintered on Unalaska.
A brief dictionary of twelve languages of the northeastern Siberia and the Aleutian Islands published in this book is fuller than that in Sauer’s account and includes additional dictionaries of the sedentary and nomad Chukchi and Koriaks, the tribes of Kamchatka (living near the Bolsheretsk fort, the Kamchatka River, and the Tigil River), and of the Aleuts (from the Andreanof Islands, Fox Islands and the Kodiak Island). Sauer’s account contains only one general dictionary of the languages of Kamchatka, the Aleutian Islands and the Kodiak Island).
The book also contains the overview of the notes taken in the Vekhnekolymsky Fort from October 1786 to April 1787, with the excerpt from the expedition meteorological journal (pp. 130-142), and the “Instruction of Her Imperial Majesty from the Admiralty Board to Mr. Joseph Billings, Captain-Lieutenant of the Fleet, commanding the Geographical and Astronomical Expedition intended for the Northeastern Part of the Russian Empire” (25 articles, pp. 143-189).
The plates in this edition were produced by the famous Russian engravers Kozma and Ivan Cheskys and show a celebration in the tent of the elder of reindeer Chukchi, mode of travel of nomad Chukchi (in sleighs drawn by reindeer), and reindeer Chukchi in various costumes. The maps depict St. Lawrence Bay and a nearby Mechigmen Bay (both in the Bering Sea, the eastern part of the Chukotka Peninsula), based on the survey of expedition member Batakov. Large folding Mercator map of the Arctic Sea, Bering Strait, and part of the North Pacific which shows the shores of Chukchi land in the west and of North America in the east, with St. Lawrence Island and St. Matthew Island in the south; the map marks Billings’ party’s route across the Chukotka peninsula from the Mechigmen Bay to the Nizhnekolymsky ostrog.
“In 1785, at the suggestion of William Coxe, the historian, Billings was appointed by Catherine II to lead an expedition to the Chukotsky peninsula in northeastern Siberia, with the objective of filling the gap in the maps left by the Great Northern Expedition. Billings left St. Petersburg in 1785, accompanied by Martin Sauer (his historian and secretary) and Carl Heinrich Merck (a naturalist), and was in Okhotsk by Juy 1786. <…> The section of the coast to the east of the Kolyma River was assigned to Gavriil A. Sarychev who failed to make progress due to pack ice. <…> In 1790 a second expedition, with the ship Slave Rossii and with an escorting craft, the Chernui Orel under Saruchev took Billings to the Aleutian Islands, and as far as Mount Elias on the coast of Alaska. At Unalaska, in June 1790, Sauer declared that the native inhabitants, with their Stone Age culture, were far superior to the toadies who made up the court circles at St. Petersburg and who had no culture at all. Sarychev investigated the Aleutians and the southern coast of Alaska, visiting Unalashka in June 1790, and Schugatskikh Bay (= Prince William Sound) in July. In the summer of 1790, Billings and a party of seven, including the naturalist Merck, reached Lavrentiya Bay. Unable to round the East Cape, he travelled westward overland to Nizhnekolymsk. The expedition returned in 1793, having accomplished little in the way of new discoveries” (Howgego, To 1800, B96).
Lada-Mocarski 67; Sabin 77124; Mezhov 14349; Obolyaninov 2405; Wickersham 6133.