St. Petersburg: Imperial Academy of Sciences, 1855. Item #602
, 442, , [1 - errata] pp. 25,5x16 cm. With a folding lithographed map at rear. Original green publisher’s printed wrappers. First few leaves with minor foxing, wrappers with minor tears, but overall a very good uncut copy in very original condition.
First edition of the first publication of the first major work on the Russian trade in Central Asia, which received the Demidov award of the Russian Academy of Sciences in 1856. This present work was published in the “Proceedings of the Russian Geographical Society” (1855) and preceded the first separate printing issued by the Society the next year, with a slightly elaborated title: “Sketches on the Russian Trade in Central Asia: with Khiva, Bukhara and Kokand (from the Side of the Orenburg Fortification Line).”
The work was written by a new member of the Russian Geographical Society Pavel Nebolsin (1817-1893), a graduate of Saint Petersburg University, who had become well-known for the numerous articles in the “Otechestvennye Zapiski” magazine about Siberian gold mining, history and contemporary life of Siberian Cossacks. In 1850 Nebolsin went to the Caspian region and the Orenburg Fortification Line on the Russian border with the nomad Kazakhs in the southern Urals, on the special assignment of the Russian Geographical Society. To achieve the main goal of his travel which was a comprehensive description of the Russian trade with the Khanates of Khiva and Kokand, and the Emirate of Bukhara, Nebolsin “went across the whole Orenburg Line, stayed for several months in Orenburg and Troitsk, visited the Kirghiz [Kazakh] steppe, interviewed up to 200 people from Russians, Tatars, Kirghizes, Khivans, Bukharians, Kokands, Afghans, and in the end visited Astrakhan”.
Given the fact that Nebolsin had to get the main intelligence from the local merchants who weren’t eager to share their trade secrets, and then to analyze and compare the answers to bring out the truth, the results of his work are truly outstanding. Starting with an overview of the main principles and conditions of Central Asian trade and the character of the local merchants, Nebolsin presents the detailed description of merchant caravan travels from the Orenburg Line to the main cities of Central Asia and back (Bukhara, Khiva, Tashkent, Kokand, Ghulia etc.), including the routes, modes and prices for transport, regularity, distances and time required for each route. For the quality of his description Nebolsin was called “the Columbus of the caravan life”by a member of the Academy of Sciences who reviewed his book after it had been applied for the Demidov Award (25th Demidov Award…, p. 23). The other chapters describe the taxing of goods, methods of delivery of goods to the Nizhny Novgorod trade fair (one of the largest Russian fairs at the time), contemporary trade relations between the Khanates and established caravan routes in Central Asia, types of import and export goods, general comparative analysis of Russian trade with different khanates etc. The book is supplemented with a folding lithographed map of the northwestern part of Central Asia. The map was compiled in 1854 by a noted orientalist Nikolay Khanykov (1822-1878); the map outlines the main caravan routes, marks the main settlements and important geographical objects on the routes (i.e. “a
ravine with good water”), as well as the routes of European travellers to the region (Mueller 1743, Nazarov 1813-14, Muravyov 1819, Conolli 1830, Vitkevich 1836, Abbott 1839, Shakespeare 1840, Nikiforov 1841, Kovalevsky 1851 and many others).
Chronologically the book relates to the beginning of the new stage of the Great Game in Central Asia, when after having gradually annexed the territories of the nomad Kazakhs in the 18th century, Russia started her advance to the Khanates in the south. After the unsuccessful Khiva Expedition of 1839-40, the Russo-Kokand war started in April 1850 – the same year when Nebolsin travelled to the Russian border near the Orenburg Fortification Line. After several Russian military expeditions, the actions saw a break during the Crimean War, but resumed in the 1860s and ended with the capture of Tashkent in 1865; the Khanate of Kokand became a Russian protectorate in 1868. Overall an important Russian book on Central Asia written in the midst of the Great Game.