St. Petersburg: Typ. Of Ivan Glazunov, 1831. Item #588
2 vols. 27x20 cm (text) & 44,5x53,5 cm (atlas). Text: copper engraved title page, two copper engraved dedication leaves, , 397, ; 326,  pp. Atlas: copper engraved title page, copper engraved table of contents, 19 copper engraved maps (including a large folding General map of the Antarctic region), and 45 plates (one etching, the rest - lithographs). Both text and atlas bound in matching Russian period style half morocco with marbled papered boards. Additionally, both volumes are bound without the errata pages at rear, which is identical to the copy held in the collection of the Russian State Library. These bibliographical variations may have been caused by a shortage of title and errata pages in the typography and thus end of run copies of the text might have only been bound with one title page and without errata pages. These kinds of copy variations were not uncommon with Russian printers at the time.
Overall a very good copy of this very rare and important Russian voyage account.
Almost unobtainable first edition of Russian work with only three known paper copies found in western institutions (Royal Geographical Society, Scott Polar Research Institute, Warsaw University), with only one copy with the atlas, and that copy is lacking the general map of the Antarctic region (RGS, according to Rozove). The book is considered perhaps the rarest Russian travel account, and its publication took Bellingshausen almost ten years to complete. The manuscript was presented to the State Admiralty Department in 1824 with the appeal to print it in 1200 copies, but it wasn’t approved, most likely because of the Decembrist Revolt in Saint Petersburg in 1825. Two years later, in 1827 Bellingshausen repeated his appeal, this time asking for a print run of 600 copies only. The Office of His Imperial Majesty funded the publication which was printed in 1831 for the benefit of the author and sold for the high price of 20 roubles per copy. The text volumes were accompanied with the atlas containing nineteen engraved maps after the originals by Bellingshausen, including a large folding map of the Antarctic region,
not present in all copies; ten coastal profiles and thirty-five plates (one etching and thirty-four lithographs), made after the original drawings by the expedition artist Pavel Mikhailov (1786-1840).
The book quickly became a bibliographic rarity in Russia, however the second Russian edition was published only in 1949. The author of the preface to the second edition Soviet geographer E. Schvede noted that the original manuscript accounts of the expedition, as well as diaries and notes of the expedition members had been lost in the archives, probably during the editorial work on the first edition, and for that reason it was impossible to verify the text of the second edition with the original manuscripts, so the first edition had to be used as the primary source for the publication.
The book was first translated into German in 1902 (Leipzig, 1902), and into English in 1945, over a hundred years after it had been first published (London: Printed for the Hakluyt Society, 1945). The text volumes contain a detailed account of the first Russian Antarctic expedition during which the continent of Antarctica was discovered. Bellingshausen surveyed the uncharted southern shore of South Georgia, discovered several islands in the South Sandwich group (Leskov Island, Visokoi Island, Zavodovski Island), crossed the Antarctic circle (first to do so since Cook), and on 27 January 1820 discovered the Antarctic continent, stopping about 20 miles from the mainland at the impenetrable icefields in the area of modern Bellingshausen glacier at
Princess Martha Coast, Eastern Antarctica.
Escaping the Antarctic winter, the expedition proceeded to Port Jackson (Sydney), and thence to New Zealand, going through the Cook Strait and staying for several days in the Queen Charlotte Sound (South Island). In July-September 1820 the ships surveyed South Pacific and in the beginning discovered over a dozen atolls in the Tuamotu archipelago: Moller atoll (Amanu), Arakcheev atoll (Fangatau), Volkonsky atoll (Takume), Barclay de Tolly atoll (Raroia), Nigeri atoll (Nihiru), Yermolov atoll (Taenga), Kutuzov atoll (Makemo), Raevski atolls (Tuanake and Hiti), Osten-Saken atoll (Katiu), Chichagov atoll (Tahanea), Wittgenstein atoll (Fakarava), Miloradovich atoll (Faaite), Greig atoll (Niau), and Lazarev atoll (Mataiva). The expedition then stayed in Tahiti
for two weeks and returned to Sydney, discovering several islands in the Eastern Pacific: Grand Duke Alexander Island (Rakahanga atoll, Cook Islands), Vostok atoll (Kiribati), Mikhailov and Simonov atolls (Tuvana-i- Ra and Tuvana-i-Colo, Fiji), and Ono Island (Ono-i-lau, Fiji). During the second voyage to the Antarctic, Bellingshausen and Lazarev discovered the Peter I Island and Alexander I Coast of the Antarctic continent (later renamed as Alexandra Island). In the end of the voyage the expedition discovered several islands of the South Shetland Islands, naming them after the heroes and battlefields of the Napoleonic wars: Borodino (Smith I), Shishkova (Clarence I), Smolensk (Livingston I), Leipzig (Nelson I), Waterloo (King George I), Maly Yaroslavets (Snow I), and others.
The text volumes contain detailed description of the voyage, including a separate account of Mirny’s voyage from Antarctica to Port Jackson, and vivid notes on Sidney and nearby town of Paramatta, appearance, manners and customs, dancing and singing of New Zealanders, first meetings with the natives of the Tuamotus, stay in Tahiti (including the visit of king Pomare II to the expedition ships), with a brief description of its history, flora and fauna, main occupations and pastimes of the inhabitants et al., and of course the narrative of the Antarctic discoveries. Special part of chapter V gives a general overview of the colony of New South Wales and Van Diemen’s land.
The atlas, with its 19 copper engraved maps, one etching and 44 lithographs, includes 25 plates of Antarctic interest (rare large folding map of the Antarctic region, maps and coastal profiles
of the South Georgia and South Sandwich Islands, Macquarie, Peter I, Alexander, and South Shetland Islands; views of the icebergs near the Antarctic coast drawn on 8 January 1830, plates showing Antarctic birds, penguins and crabeater seals). Eleven plates concern Australia and New Zealand and include beautiful large views of Sydney and vicinity (one of the earliest views of Sydney and the first view by a Russian artist), and a Maori settlement in Queen Charlotte Sound, vivid portraits of native Australians and Maoris, a view of a Maori war dance performed in front
of Bellingshausen and Russian sailors, views of native birds etc. Twentyfive plates depict Bellingshausen’s voyage in South Pacific and include: maps and coastal profiles of the Russian discoveries in the Tuamotus and Eastern Pacific, a picturesque scene of “Breakfast with the King of Otahiti,” a view of Tahiti’s northern coast taken from Cape Venus; a portrait of Pomare II (a copy of the etching after the original drawing by W. Ellis), and original portraits of native inhabitants from the Tuamotus, Rakahanga atoll (Cook Islands) and Ono Atoll (Fiji). Three remaining
plates are related to the Atlantic (a view of Rio de Janeiro and plates showing different types of seaweed).
“In one of the most notable of all polar voyages, the Russian expedition led by Fabian von Bellingshausen accomplished only the second circumnavigation of Antarctica, the first being by James Cook,and in so doing made what is now generally accepted to have been the first sighting of the continent. Other discoveries included the Traversay Islands (the northern group of the South Sandwich Islands) and Peter I and Alexander I Islands. <…> Bellingshausen’s reception on his return to Kronstadt in August 1821 was less than rapturous. No significant harbors had been discovered, and despite the expedition’s other achievements, it was not clear how Russia could benefit from its Antarctic investigations. Bellingshausen himself was restored to routine
duties, though he was eventually elevated to admiral and died in 1852 as governor of Kronstadt. Only in 1831 was his account of the voyage published and only then in a limited edition of 600 copies. It is now one – if not the greatest – of rarities sought by collectors of Antarctic books.” (Mill, W.J. Exploring Polar Frontiers: A Historical Encyclopaedia. 2003).
“The illustrations of native peoples and Antarctic wildlife are beautifully executed. The fine and accurate topographical sketches were made by the artist Mikhailov and were still being used by the British Admiralty one hundred years after their publication” (Rosove, M. Antarctica, 1772-1922. Santa Monica, 2001, no. 32). Rozove 31 & 32, Chavanne 5739, Mill 137, Denuce 2854 (date of publication erroneously recorded as 1834).