[ARCTIC: THE NORTHEAST PASSAGE] Istoriya otkrytiya morskogo puti iz Evropy v Sibirskiye reki i do Beringova proliva [i.e. History of Discovery of the Maritime Passage from Europe to the Siberian Rivers and the Bering Strait]

St. Petersburg: Typ. of D.I. Shemetkin, 1883. Item #315

In 2 vols. bound together. [2], xv, 318, [2]; [2], iii. 288 pp. Octavo. Period Russian olive quarter leather with marbled boards and faded gilt lettered title on the spine. Faded ink inscription on the first free endpaper, Soviet bookshop’s stamp on the first pastedown endpaper. Binding rubbed on extremities, corners slightly bumped, mild water stains on the text block, but otherwise a very good copy.

First and only edition. Very rare and important little-known piece of Russian Arctic literature, focusing on the activity of Mikhail Konstantinovich Sidorov (1823-1887), Siberian gold mine owner and trader who spent his life promoting the trade navigation along the Northern Sea Route, and sponsored several expeditions to the mouths of the Yenisei and Ob Rivers, including those under command of Joseph Wiggins (several voyages in 1874-1878), and Nils Adolf Nordenskiöld (1875 and 1876). The book was compiled by Fyodor Studitsky (1814-1893), the secretary of Saint Petersburg branch of the Society for promotion of Russian trade navigation, which Sidorov was an honorary member of. Studitsky worked on the basis of Sidorov’s extensive archive which included his notes, correspondence and unpublished works.

The first volume contains a brief historical overview of the exploration of the Northeast Passage up to the 1838 expedition of Avgust Tsivolko to Novaya Zemlya, which is followed with over 300 pages dedicated to Sidorov’s work in Siberia and his efforts to organize navigation through the Kara Sea to the east: his numerous appeals to Siberian authorities (starting in 1859), proposals to the Russian Geographical Society (1863), attempts to establish steamship companies on the Ob and Yenisei Rivers, famous ‘‘Arctic parties’’ organized in the 1870s to attract attention to the Northeast Passage, expeditions of Wiggins and Nordenskiöld, and others. The volume commences with the description of the first navigation through the Northeast Passage by Nordenskiöld on ‘‘Vega’’ in 1878-1879.

The second volume contains the text of over forty documents from Sidorov’s archive, including reports of Siberian authorities, Sidorov’s proposal to the Russian Geographical Society to help Nordenskiöld’s expedition to the Yenisei River, stenographic reports of the receptions honoring Nordenskiöld’s navigation of the Northeast Passage, Sidorov’s speech on one of the ‘‘Arctic parties’’, Sidorov’s articles about Wiggins, Schwanenberg and ‘‘Severnoye Siyanie’’ clipper, his reports made for various Russian societies, and many others. Overall an extensive collection of original little-known materials about the person who was named by the Imperial Society for the promotion of the Russian trade navigation ‘‘the main cause of discovery of the maritime route to the Ob and Yenisei Rivers’’ (current work, vol. 1, p. 2). An island in the Arkticheskiy Institut group in the Kara Sea and a mountain on Spitsbergen were named after Sidorov.

‘‘…it was only during the 1870s that commercial development of the Northern Sea Route began to take shape, largely as a result of the efforts of the pioneer mining prospector Mikhail Konstantinovich Sidorov…’’ (Howgego, Encyclopedia of Exploration,#35).

Worldcat locates only two paper copies in USA (Yale, Alaska State Library).


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