St. Petersburg: Typ. of the Imperial Foundling Home, 1828. Item #236
xvi, 223,  pp. Octavo. With a large folding engraved map of Tibet and a hand coloured folding copper engraved view of Lhasa. Later quarter sheep with marbled papered boards; spine with gilt stamped ornaments and a green label with gilt lettered title. Both original publisher’s wrappers bound in, first wrapper with a period ink inscription in Russian on verso: “Received on the 11th of September 1829 from the bookshop of the Department of Public Education” (in translation). Pale 19th-century library stamps on verso of the map, title page, dedication leaf and in text, page 159/160 neatly remargined, otherwise a very good copy.
First edition. Very rare. Only eight paper copies found in WorldCat.
First Russian book about Tibet and first printed book by the famous Russian historian and translator from Chinese archimandrite Iakinf, “the father of Russian sinology” (his ‘‘Notes on Mongolia’’ were published later the same year). Complete, with a large folding map of a caravan route from Chengdu (Sichuan province of China) to Lhasa (the main route to Tibet), and a picturesque hand colored bird’s-eye view of Lhasa, “the first detailed view of the city to appear in a Western printed book” (Sotheby’s).
“A very rare and valuable account of Tibet from a Chinese perspective. The first and only edition in Russian and the first printing of this work in the West, translated by the Russian monk and Sinologist Iakinf Bichurin from the Chinese original of 1792. With a very fine hand-coloured bird’s-eye view of Lhasa, the first detailed view of the city to appear in a Western printed book; the plan and key are present in only a very small number of copies. This book, edited by Lu Hua Chu, was written by the Chinese civil servant Ma Shao Yun, aided by Shung Mai-hai and was intended as an official government handbook for the Chinese army then occupying Tibet and to give information to the authorities in China about Tibet. The book is divided into two parts: the first is a topographical description of the route from Chen-du in Szechuan province to Lhasa; the second contains information on various aspects of Tibet, including its history, frontiers, the calendar, army, law, finances, dress, food, manners and customs, buildings, medicine, divination, and details of the Chinese administration. The translator, Iakinf Bichurin, spent 14 years as leader of the Russian Orthodox Mission to China in the early nineteenth century. His scholarly studies of China and Chinese culture brought him distinction as one of the founding fathers of Chinese studies and one of the first Russian Sinologists; he was also a corresponding member of the Russian Academy of Sciences” (Sotheby’s).
The main text is supplemented with two “articles” specially written by father Iakinf: a sketch of Tibet’s geography, history, population, education and administration; and an essay about the history and modern state of religion in Tibet. The book was dedicated to princess Zinaida Volkonskaya (1789-1862), Russian soloist, poet and writer and an important figure in 19th-century Russian cultural life, who financially supported the publication of the book. In 1831 “Opisanie Tibeta” was translated into French by Julius von Klaproth who made Iakinf widely known in the European scientific circles (Description du Tibet, traduite partiellement du chinois en russe par le P. Hyacinthe Bitchourin, et du russe en français par M. ***; soigneusement revue et corrigée sur l’original chinois, complétée et accompagnée de notes par M. Klaproth. Paris: Imprimerie royale, 1831). Shortly after the book had been published, Russian Academy of Sciences made father Iakinf its member (1828); in 1831 he also joined the Asiatic Society of Paris.
Not in Yakushi (3rd edition).