First and only Russian edition. A period collection of four parts (Part 1, book 1; Part 2, book 1; Part 3, book 1 & Part 4, book 1) bound together. Octavo (ca. 21x13 cm). [2 – t.p.], 3-121; [2 – t.p.], 3-114; [2 – t.p.], 3-102; [2 – t.p.], 3-100 pp. The first title page with a period faded ink inscription by the owner. Period brown quarter sheep with papered boards; spine with gilt-tooled decorations and a green label with a gilt-lettered title. Binding neatly repaired on the spine, occasional water stains and foxing in text, but overall a very good original copy.
Very rare Russian imprint with only two paper copies found in Worldcat - Yale University and New York Public Library (both holding complete sets of the magazine, comprising four parts, each in three books; no holdings of odd volumes found).
Very rare and early (possibly, the first), obscure Russian printed account of two Arctic voyages of Vasily Chichagov in search of the Northeast Passage (1765 and 1766). Organized by the Russian Admiralty on the order of Empress Catherine II, the expeditions, for the first time in Russian history, attempted to discover a navigable sea route from Arkhangelsk to Kamchatka across the high altitudes of the Arctic Ocean. The influencer and main engine of the voyages, a prominent 18th-century Russian scientist and writer Mikhail Lomonosov (1711-1765), advocated the idea that the central part of the Polar Sea was free of ice and the route to Kamchatka around the west coast of Spitzbergen and then along the Arctic coast of North America was potentially navigable. The expeditions were kept a state secret, not be revealed even to the State Senate “until the right time” (Proekt Lomonosova i Ekspeditsiya Chichagova… SPb., 1854, p. xi). Chichagov and his three expedition ships twice attempted to penetrate the Arctic Ocean northwest of Spitzbergen (Svalbard) but only managed to proceed as far north as 80°26’ (summer 1765) and 80°30’ (summer 1766). Both times, he called at the Russian supply base in the Klokbay (Bellsund) on the western coast of the archipelago and, on the way back to Arkhangelsk in 1766, rescued the Russian wintering party. Although Chichagov and his party received awards and monetary prizes from the Empress, the expeditions were considered unsuccessful, and Catherine II’s government stopped attempts at the discovery of the Northeast Passage.
Due to the expeditions’ high secrecy and unsuccessful outcome, they were forgotten for decades. The first account of Chichagov’s voyages was prepared in 1775 by a famous Russian historian of German origin, Gerhard Friedrich Müller (1705-1783). The manuscript was published only in 1793, after Müller’s death – at first in vol. 5 of Peter Simon’s Pallas’ highly-esteemed series “Neue Nordische Beyträge…” (SPb. & Leipzig, 1793, pp. 3-104), and then as an offprint (Müller, G.F. Herrn v. Tschitschagow Russisch-Kayserlichen Admirals Reise nach dem Eissmeer. St. Petersburg: Johann Zacharias Logan, 1793). Müller’s work was never published in Russian.
The first major Russian account of Chichagov’s voyages was issued in 1847 by a noted historian of the Russian fleet, Alexander Petrovich Sokolov (1816-1858). His edition of Lomonosov’s manuscript on the exploration of the Northeast Passage project (Sochinenie Lomonosova. SPb.: Morskaya Typ., 1847) had an accompanying publication, with the account of Chichagov’s voyages in the official magazine of the Russian navy, “Zapiski Gidrograficheskogo Departamenta Morskogo Ministerstva” (SPb., 1847, vol. 5, pp. 240-252). In the second edition of Lomonosov’s manuscript, both parts were combined into one work (Proekt Lomonosova i Ekspeditsiya Chichagova. SPb., 1854). Talking about the history of publication of Lomonosov’s manuscript and the account of Chichagov’s voyages, Sokolov described Müller’s work, as well as Adam von Krusenstern’s attempt to publish the complete history of Chichagov’s expeditions in 1819, which didn’t prove successful (Proekt Lomonosova i Ekspeditsiya Chichagova, pp. lxxxviii-c). “After that, among the [materials] printed about Chichagov’s expedition in Russian, there is only what is placed in this book. We don’t take into consideration several words (with mistakes) by Berkh in his “Chronological history of travels” [Khronologicheskaia Istoria vsekh Puteshestviy v Severnuya Polyarnya Strany, 2 vols., SPb., 1821-1823]” (Proekt Lomonosova i Ekspeditsiya Chichagova, p. c). The publication in the “Litsey” magazine remained unknown for Sokolov, who didn’t include it in his fundamental bibliography of books and articles on the naval and maritime topics “Russkaya morskaya biblioteka” (1847-1852; 2nd ed. - 1883). We didn’t find mentions of “Litsey’s” publication in later Russian or English-language works about Chichagov’s expeditions.
The article, titled “Relation about Voyages of the Russians around the World (Continuation)” (in translation), is part of an extensive work published under the same title in nine issues of the “Litsey” (Part 1, book 2; Part 2, books 1, 2 & 3; Part 3, books 1, 2 & 3; Part 4, books 2 & 3). It becomes obvious from the text that the author was the magazine’s publisher, Ivan Martynov (1771-1833) - a Saint Petersburg philologist, translator and educator, a member of the Russian Academy, and author of the statutes of several Russian Universities. As Martynov noted in the first article of the series, its purpose was to “publish excerpts from a diary of a person, entrusted by the [Russian] American Company, about the expedition, sent in 1803 on a voyage around the world” (Litsey. 1806. Part 1, book 2, p. 37). In fact, the last two articles from the series contain one of the earliest printed accounts of the first Russian circumnavigation under the command of Adam von Krusenstern and Yury Lisiansky (Litsey. 1806. Part 4, Book 2. Pp. 45-58; Part 4, Book 3. Pp. 39-63). The previous seven articles aim to “overview the successes the Russians had in the past times, about discoveries of new lands, and what travels they undertook overall” (Litsey. 1806. Part 1, book 2, pp. 37-38). The first article described Russian discoveries of the 17th century, Bering’s Great Northern Expedition, and voyages of the Russian fur hunters to the Aleutian Islands; the second article – travels of Vasily Chichagov and Joseph Billings; and the last five articles – the first Russian embassy to Japan, led by Adam Laxman in 1792-1793.
The present volume contains the text about Chichagov’s voyages in the article, published in Part 2, book 1 of the “Litsey” occupies almost sixteen pages and contains the account proper (based on Chichagov’s official reports to the Admiralty), starting with the construction of the expedition ships in Arkhangelsk in 1764, and ending with the expedition’s return in 1766. The editor’s footnote on p. 71 provides data on the geographical coordinates of the Kildin Island and Kola town. The text also contains abridged and possibly edited quotes from the original Decree from the Admiralty to Chichagov from September 13, 1765, and an extensive letter to Chichagov from the Admiralty’s vice-president, Count Ivan Chernyshov, dated the same time. Martynov’s sources for his publication are not known – he could have access to original archival documents, or maybe he used Müller’s work as a base. Still, in any case, his article is one of the earliest known Russian publications on the topic.
The last two pages of the article contain a brief account of Joseph Billings’ Northeastern expedition (1785-1793), with the mention that Captain Sarychev’s “beautiful and curious account of this expedition was published in Russian in 1802” (p. 86). Another issue of the “Litsey,” bound here (Part 3, book 1), contains a part of the account of Adam Laxman’s embassy to Japan, describing his stay in Matsumae and negotiations with the Japanese on April 22 – May 16, 1793 (pp. 59-76).
“Litsey” magazine was issued in 1806 only and consisted of four parts (each in three books); its main body contains translations from ancient Greek, Roman, and European writers (Jean de La Fontaine, Christoph Wieland, Gotthold Lessing, Jean Paul Richter, and others) and works of contemporary Russian poets. The magazine also included articles on political and cultural topics, relations from the Russian Academy of Sciences, accounts of contemporary travels and voyages, reviews on the latest theatre performances, &c.
Overall, an early, rare, little-known Russian publication of the account of Vasily Chichagov’s voyages of discovery of the Northeast Passage.