St. Petersburg: Typ. of M.M. Stasiulevich, 1883-1884. Item #324
2 vols. Vol. 1. Sikkim. Second edition. Vol. 2. Kashmir, Ladakh. , 86; 135 pp. Octavo. With twenty woodcut plates and numerous woodcut
illustrations in text. Original publisher’s illustrated wrappers. Previous owner’s pencil inscriptions on the front wrappers and the title pages, wrappers are age toned with minor chipping of extremities , vol. 2. with the spine lacking, otherwise very good internally clean copy.
First edition. Very rare. Little known account of the first travel to India of famous Russian artist Vasily Vereshchagin (1842-1904) written by his first wife Elizaveta Kondratyevna (1856-1941); nee Elizabeth Maria Fischer, German born, was married to Vereshchagin in 1871-90). The text was initially written in German, as Elizaveta Vereshchagina wasn’t fluent in Russian, and then translated into Russian by Vereshchagin himself. The book was published in the well-known Saint Petersburg typography of Mikhail Stasyulevich, the first volume had two identical print runs, both issued in 1883. The book has never been reissued or translated into other languages.
The book describes the Vereshchagin spouses’ travel to India, Eastern Himalayas, Kashmir and Ladakh in 1874-76. The first volume details the journey to Sikkim, including descriptions of Darjeeling, trekking to the Dzongri Top of the Goecha La mountain pass (over 4200 m.) to paint views of Kanchenjunga and surrounding Himalayan peaks, with interesting notes on the effects of altitude sickness and snow blindness (the spouses ascended Dzongri in January, in spite of numerous advice against it, and stayed there for three days); visits to several local monasteries (Pemayangtse, Sanga Choeling, Tashiding, Namchi), towns of Yuksom and Tumlong, audience with the young king of Sikkim Thutob Namgyal (1860-1914), and acquaintance with the Sikkim equivalent of Dalay-Lama whose portrait Vereshchagin painted while in Tumlong, and others. The second volume describes the journey to Kashmir and Ladakh, with stops in Lahore and Srinagar, Wular Lake; Dras, Kargil, and Shergol stations, Ladakh’s capital Leh, several local monasteries (Lamayuru, Hemis, Shey, Phyang, and others), Lakes Pangong and Moriri, Simla and Narkanda mountain stations, and others.
The account is lively and entertaining, presenting a strenuous travel to the Northern India and the Himalayas from a woman’s perspective. The book is richly illustrated with reproductions of Indian views and portraits of the locals by Vasily Vereshchagin (he did over 150 sketches during this first Indian travel); interesting details of the circumstances in which some of the sketches were made are often provided. Elizaveta noted on several occasions that she was the first European woman to visit some of the monasteries and villages in Sikkim, Ladakh and Kashmir. The travelers often had to overcome obstacles created by British authorities who suspected that Vereshchagin was on service of the Russian intelligence service, and him painting Himalayan mountain passes and settlements was a part of Russia’s plan to ascertain the approaches to Tibet.
Overall a very interesting early Russian journey to the Himalayas written from a woman’s point of view.
Worldcat locates only three paper copies (Yale, Columbia, Harvard).