St. Petersburg: Imperial Academy of Sciences, 1781. Item #538
Parts 7 & 8 bound together. 942 pp. 20,5x12 cm. With one folding copper engraved plan and three folding copper engraved plates, bound without one copper engraved plate (a blueprint of a handmill). Contemporary Russian full leather with green title label on the spine, and blind stamped volume number “7-8”. Copper engraved 19th-century library paper label on the front pastedown endpaper. Binding rubbed on extremities, corners slightly bumped, paper very mildly age toned, pp. 17-18 with a loss of the lower blank margin neatly repaired with old paper, a few words slightly affected, but overall a very good copy of this rare Russian periodical in very original condition.
First and only edition. First publication of an important Russian early 18th-century account of a caravan travel to China along the unusual route via Eastern Siberia and Manchuria. The manuscript describes the travel of a Russian diplomatic and the trade caravan to Beijing in July 1736 – May 1737, under command of Siberian merchant Yerofey Firsov and an important Russian diplomat of Swedish origin Lorenz Lange (ca. 1690s-1752). The caravan didn’t have the traditional stopover in the tea-trading town of Kyakhta, but proceeded further east and crossed the Russian-Chinese border near Tsurukhaitu (now Priargunsk, Zabaykalsky Kray); later moving over the Greater Khingan Range and along the route of the Nen River, and stopping in Naun (Nenjiang, Heilongjiang province). The diary includes a detailed description of Naun and the Great Wall of China; a separate part of the narration is titled “What happened on our arrival to Beijing.” The publication is supplemented with a folding copper engraved plan of Beijing – the first such plan in a Russian book. The plan shows Beijing within the 18th-century city border, with the Forbidden City in the centre, as well as its vicinity with the nearby wells, rivers and monasteries; in the north the plan marks the first Russian cemetery outside the city wall. The plan is supplemented with a list of 30 objects also shown by the compiler, including the Emperor’s Palace, several city gates, the Jingshan Hill, French and Portuguese embassies, “the house where elephants are lodged,” Russian Embassy and church, the Temple of Heaven, and others. The annotations to the plan were compiled by a noted Russian sinologist Ilarion Rassokhin (1707/1717-1761).
The original manuscript was found in the famous “Mueller’s Portfolios” (i.e. Portfeli Millera) – an enormous collection of original and copied documents from Siberian archives collected by the famous Russian historian, traveller and pioneer ethnologist Gerhard Mueller during the Great Northern Expedition (1733-43); the documents bound in 34 gigantic volumes comprise of the largest in the world archival collection on Siberian geography, ethnography, and history of Russian exploration. The “Mueller’s Portfolios” are now stored in Moscow in the Russian State Archive of Ancient Documents (RGADA).
The original Russian text of the “Daily Notes on the Caravan Travel” was published in parts VII and VIII of the “Academical Newsletter” (pp. 466-505, 602-631); the German text was published the same year in P.S. Pallas’s famous “Neue Nordische Beitraege” (Bd. 2, St.-Pbg. and Leipzig, 1781, pp. 160-207).
A prisoner of war after Sweden’s defeat in the Great Northern War (1720-21), Lorenz Lange “was a military engineer in German service. He entered Russian service in 1712, and accompanied the British surgeon Thomas Garvine on an expedition to China. In all he appears to have made six journeys to China. He remained in Siberia and in 1739 was appointed vice-governor of Irkutsk. He wrote six diaries: one of them covering the years 1720-22, was published in French and German in 1726” (Howgego, To 1800, S198).
Overall an important first publication of a Russian travel to China, with the first plan of Beijing published in a Russian book.