Moscow: Typ. of Lazarevs’ Institute of Foreign Languages, 1833. Item #381
Xv, iii, 259 pp. 21x13,5 cm. With additional copper engraved title page (decorated with two vignettes), four hand coloured folding lithographed plates (including a frontispiece; two signed and dated by the artist), and a folding copper engraved plate of snow flakes. Period style full leather with gilt tooled ornamental borders on boards and the spine (spine with gilt lettering). Lithographed title page with a minor chip of lower outer corner restored, title page with expert repair of central blank gutter margin, on verso imprint page with a few letters affected, but overall a very good handsome copy.
First edition. Very rare with only four paper copies found in Worldcat. The book has never been translated into other languages, the only reprint edition was published in Tyumen in 2004.
Interesting early account of the Siberian Arctic with a description of travels down the Ob River to the Gulf of Ob in the Kara Sea. The author Frants Belyavsky – a Russian doctor of Polish origin - travelled down the Irtysh and Ob Rivers from Tobolsk to Beryozov (nowadays Beryozovo) and Obdorsk (Salekhard) to survey the epidemic of syphilis among the natives and Russian settlers, and try to help its victims. The first cases of syphilis among the Samoyeds (Nenets people) and Ostyaks (Khanty people) in Beryozov were recorded in 1816-1817 (Belyavsky, p. 133-141). Starting in 1822 an annual trip by a doctor of the Medical Office of the Tobolsk Governorate had been organized, the doctor would report on the spread of the disease and provide necessary medication to the infected people. The treatment was quite effective and if in the early years ‘‘there was not almost anyone among the Ostyaks who would not be infected’’, in early 1828 out of over 21,000 people there were not more than 611 sick ones (Belyavsky, p. 139). Belyavsky took on the annual tour as a doctor in the service of the Tobolsk Medical Office in the early months of 1828. In his book he describes the voyage down the Irtysh and Ob Rivers from Tobolsk to Beryozov, giving interesting notes on the main villages along the way - Bronnikovo, Uvat, Yurovskoye, Demyanskoye, Denshchikovskoye, Samarovo, and others; separate chapters are dedicated to Beryozov – an important old post on the northern Russian fur trade route – and its historical sites; native settlements on the way to the Obdorsk fort, and the fort itself. Most of the book is dedicated to a thorough description of Ostyaks (Khanty) and Samoyeds (Nenets) – their origin, settlements, dwellings; appearance, physical and mental skills; language, manners and customs, clothes, food, occupations, way of entertainment, riches, state taxes, chiefs, system of justice, religion and shamans, and sicknesses (with a separate chapter on the syphilis epidemic). The book is supplemented with lists of mammals, birds, and plants native to northwestern Siberia ‘‘from Obdorsk to the coast of the Icy Ocean’’; a copy of a letter written by Alexander von Humboldt to the head of Tobolsk Medical Office whom he got to know during his stay in the city in 1829; a Russian-Ostyak dictionary; and an explanation of over twenty local terms.
The book is illustrated with four attractive hand coloured lithographed plates showing ‘Ostyak prince Taishin’ with a small view of the Obdorsk fort underneath (frontispiece); ‘Ostyaks during hunting’, ‘Samoyeds. Shaman. Chief Paygol’ (both signed and dated 1832); and a view of a Nenets settlement showing a yurt, an idol in a tree, hunters, reindeers, a dog sled, a person playing a musical instrument, and others. Two lithographs are signed ‘Zheren. 1832’ – by a member of the Zheren family - Russian painters and graphic artists, most likely by Ivan Ivanovich Zheren (18th century – after 1850), a watercolour artist and lithographer. There is also an engraved view of different forms of snow crystals from the shores of the ‘Icy Sea’.
Overall a very interesting rare and beautiful book on the Russian Arctic.
Belyavsky graduated from St. Petersburg Medical-Surgical Academy in 1824 and was sent to the Tobolsk Medical Office where he served for three and a half years. Later he worked in the Catherine Hospital in Moscow, then opened his own clinic where he used galvanoplasty as treatment, and in early 1830 travelled to the Solovetsky monastery.