St. Petersburg: Typ. T-vo ‘‘Obshchestvennaya Polza’’, 1881. Item #216
, 185 pp. Octavo. With ten woodcut plates. Contemporary Russian brown quarter sheep with marbled paper boards. Private library ink stamps on the title page and p. , Soviet bookshops’ stamps on the rear pastedown endpaper, binding rubbed on extremities, faint stain on the first few leaves, but overall a very good copy.
First edition. Very rare.
Interesting original account of the first voyage to the Pacific by the steamer Moskva of the Russian Dobrovolny Flot (Volunteer Fleet) in 1880. The goal of the voyage was to establish trade connections between the Black Sea ports and the Far East - China, Japan, and the Primorskaya region of the Russian Empire with the centre in Vladivostok. The author of the book was one of only two passengers of Moskva Konstantin Skalkovsky (1843-1906) - Russian mining engineer, writer, journalist and traveller. He travelled on special assignment of the Ministry of Finance to survey Russian trade in the Pacific. The steamer went from Odessa to Vladivostok via Suez Canal, the Malacca Strait, Singapore, and Xiamen; after having stayed in Vladivostok Skalkovsky visited Nanjing, Hankou, Shanghai, Nagasaki, Kobe, Kioto, Osaka, Yokohama, and Tokyo. From Japan he travelled across the Pacific Ocean to San Francisco on board the SS City of Peking, took a train to New York and returned to Europe on the steamer France.
The notes initially published in St. Petersburg newspapers vividly describe the voyage – Singapore trade and Chinese markets, life in Vladivostok, Russian trade in China, Yangtze River, Russian tea factory in China, Japanese tea houses, railways, industrial exhibition in Kyoto, European colony in Yokohama, Japanese navy, and others. Skalkovsky writes about the rules and way of life on board the City of Peking, its passengers, the celebration of the 4th of July; special chapter is dedicated to San Francisco, talking about the economic crisis in the United States, local millionaires, president elections, women races, the ‘‘Alaska Company’’ – the heir of the Russian American Company (the headquarters in San Francisco, main articles of hunting and trade, the conditions of life of native Alaskans), the economic crisis in British Columbia with the decline of gold extracting, vodka smuggling by the Americans to the natives of the Russian shores of the Pacific, et al.
Overall an interesting account of trade and commerce in China, Japan and North Pacific.
‘‘Dobroflot or Dobrovolny Flot (meaning «Voluntary Fleet») was a state-controlled ship transport association established in the Russian Empire in 1878 funded from voluntary contributions collected by subscription (hence the name). Also known as Russian Volunteer Fleet, Dobroflot was founded in wake of the Russo-Turkish War (1877-78), with the intent of providing Russia with a fleet of fast armed merchantmen. <…> Throughout its existence Dobroflot provided invaluable services for both the government and the economic development of Russia - particularly the Russian Far East, with Dobroflot established the first regular maritime link between Vladivostok and European Russia’’ (Wikipedia).