St. Petersburg: Bookshop of M.M. Lederle, . Item #535
iv, viii, 625, , iii pp. Octavo. With a folding lithographed map at rear. Brown ink author’s presentation inscription in Russian on the title page: “To deeply respected Konstantin Karlovich Goeltzke from the author. I. Korostovets. Lissabon, 4/16 November 96.” Period style half leather with marbled papered boards. Paper slightly age toned, otherwise a very good copy.
Rare first edition of a comprehensive work on China written by a noted Russian diplomat and sinologist Ivan Korostovets (1862-1933), who served in the Russian embassy in Beijing in 1890-94, then in the newly formed administration of the Kwantung Russian-leased territory and Port Arthur (1899), later took part in preparation and signing of the Portsmouth Peace Treaty which finished the Russo-Japanese War in 1905, and was the Russian plenipotentiary (1908) and ambassador in China in 1909-1911. In 1912 Korostovets, as the head of the Russian mission in Mongolia, signed the treaty which made Russia the first country in the world to acknowledge the independence of the Outer Mongolia from China, and thus played a major role in the formation of modern Mongolia as an independent state.
“Chinese and their civilization” was the first book by Korostovets, written after his almost five-year service in the Russian embassy in Beijing. His main goal was to educate the Russian public in the main topics of contemporary life and development of the Chinese Empire. In the light of Russian Imperial advances in Manchuria and after the creation of the Kwantung leased territory in southern Liaodong Peninsula in 1898, the book turned out to be so popular that the second edition was published the same year, in 1898. The book consists of 28 chapters, namely: Chinese and Europeans – Chinese [national] character; Trade relations and wars between China and Europeans; Population migrations; State administration and government; [Christian] missionaries and anti-European propaganda; Structure of the judicial system; Education and state exams; Extractive industry and manufacture; Finance and state budget; Trade and money; Chinese family: children and parents, marriage, funeral rituals and the cult of ancestors; How Chinese live: dwellings, street trade and crafts; Agriculture and tea cultivation; Science; Architecture and arts; Russian Orthodox Mission in Beijing; Theatre and music; Europeans’ life in Beijing; The state religion; Confucius and his teachings; Laozi and Taoism; Buddhism and Lamaism; Calendar and Holidays; European Embassies in China; Sino-Japanese War of 1894-94; etc.
The well-preserved lithographed map outlines the state and regional borders of the Chinese Empire, with the Liaodong Peninsula shown as a Chinese territory. The map indicates the major railways and telegraph lines, showing a proposed railway from Newchwang (modern-day Yingkou) and Jinzhou to Jilin via Shenyang – a predecessor of the Chinese Eastern Railway which was constructed by the Russian government in 1897-1903. The map also indicates the cities in China, Korea and Japan, open for international trade, as well as the cities where Russian consulates had been established.
The book was presented by the author – shortly after it had come out of the printing press – to Konstantin Goeltzke, the head of Russian consulate in Florence in 1899 and the representative of the Imperial Orthodox Palestine Society in Bari. Overall a very nice presentation copy of this important book on China, with a close connection to the Russian diplomatic circles of the late 19th century.