[SIBERIA: IRKUTSK & KYAKHTA] Zapiski i zamechaniya o Sibiri, sochineniye …y ….oy, s prilozhenyem starinnykh russkikh pesen [i.e. Notes and Remarks about Siberia, a Work by … …, with a Supplement of Ancient Russian Songs]

Moscow: Typ. of Nikolay Stepanov, 1837. Item #329

156 pp. Octavo. Contemporary quarter leather with gilt lettered title on the spine, gilt tooled exlibris of count Alexander Sheremetyev on the bottom of the spine. Ink stamp of a later owner D.B. Astradantsev on the front pastedown endpaper. Remnants of a removed paper label on the spine, binding rubbed on extremities, back board slightly bent, but overall a very good internally clean copy.

First edition. Rare. First book by the first Siberian female writer Ekaterina Avdeyeva (1789-1865), well-known for her memoirs and essays about Irkutsk and Siberia in general, publications of Russian folk fairy tales and books on housekeeping. Her father, rich Irkutsk merchant Alexey Yevseyevich Polevoy, together with his uncle Ivan Golikov (1735-1805) and Grigory Shelekhov (1747-1795), founded the Northeastern Fur Company on the Pacific Ocean (1781) which was transformed into the Russian-American Company in 1799. According to Ekaterina’s memoirs, her father was in close relations with Shelekhov and his successor Alexander Baranov, and the Russian-American Company was ‘‘founded by the idea of my father, who not only thought over, but also compiled and laid out the charters according to which the company was started and acted initially…’’ (Vospominaniya ob Irkutske // Otechestvennye Zapiski, 1848, vol. 58, # 5, part 8). Ekaterina’s brothers were prominent Russian writers, journalists and literary critics Nikolay Polevoy (1796-1846) and Ksenofont Polevoy (1801-1867). She didn’t receive a systematic education, but read a lot and was very knowledgeable. Avdeyeva lived
in Siberia for thirty years, mostly in Irkutsk, but also in Kyakhta where she resided for a year. After she had widowed in 1815, Avdeyeva moved to European Russia and lived in Kursk, Moscow, Odessa, Saint Petersburg and an estate near Novgorod.

Her first book Notes and Remarks about Siberia is considered the first ethnographic work about Siberia (Pypin, A.N. Istoriya Russkoy Etnografii. SPb., 1892, vol. 4, p. 443). It consists of three parts: memoirs about Irkutsk and environs, account of a travel to Kyakhta, and the text of 22 Russian traditional wedding songs. Avdeyeva describes in detail the dresses, meals and daily schedule of Irkutsk inhabitants, rituals accompanying birth, marriage and death, different kinds of divination, prices for goods and forms of trade, apparently based on her husband’s business activities; very interesting is her description of manners and customs of Chinese merchants in Kyakhta. The book was published anonymously, and supplemented with a preface by Avdeyeva’s brother Ksenofont Polevoy. It was quickly translated into German (published as an article in Magazin für die Litteratur des Auslandes), Czech and English.

Our copy bears a gilt lettered stamp from the library of count Alexander Sheremetyev (1859-1931), a lover and connoisseur of arts and amateur musician, the head of Saint Petersburg Court Chapel, and the owner of a private orchestra. His musical library included over 1500 works. There is also a stamp of the library of Russian composer and pianist Dmitry Astradantsev (1904-1945), an author of music to several early Soviet movies. Both bibliophiles were apparently interesting in the ancient Russian songs published in the book. Overall an important rare piece of Siberiana written from a woman’s point of view.

Worldcat locates 9 paper copies (Library of Congress, Alaska State Library, University of Wisconsin, Yale, Harvard, State Library of Bavaria, University of
Leipzig, University of Warsaw, National Library of Sweden).

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