PALLAS, Peter S[imon] and GEISSLER, Christian G. H. Travels through the Southern Provinces of the Russian Empire, in the Years 1793 and 1794. Two volumes. London: Printed for John Stockdale, 1812. Quarto. pp. (1) xxiii, , 552; (2) [iii]-xxxii, 525. Complete with all plates and maps. Recent antique-style half calf over marbled boards, title and volume number in gilt direct in the second and fourth compartments. All edges sprinkled. A fine set.
Abbey Travel 222; Cox I, 199; Hiler 683; Nerhood 126; Tooley 357.
Second edition of one of the chief travel narratives describing Russia in the late eighteenth century, first published ten years earlier. Illustrated with 52 plates (44 hand-coloured, 21 of these folding), 28 vignettes (23 hand-coloured), and 7 folding maps (3 duplicated in second volume): A Map of the Azof and Black Seas, Map of the Country between the Black and Caspian Seas, Map of the Steppe between the Lower Volga and the Don, A Special Map of the Isle of Taman.
Pallas, an eminent German naturalist, describes what he saw “with Teutonic thoroughness” (Nerhood). A handsome production due mainly to the attractive and charming colour illustrations which appear as vignettes in the text as well as additional plates. The illustrations depict the natives of the regions traversed, their costumes and occupations, the scenery and landscapes. Tooley goes on to observe that this work “deserves a place in every colour plate book collection for its numerous attractive coloured vignettes, an unusual feature.”
Pallas’s odyssey was first published in German in St. Petersburg under the title St Reise durch verschiedene Provinzen des russichen Reichs (St. Petersburg, 1771-76). Pallas, the newly-appointed professor of natural history at the Imperial Academy of Science in St. Petersburg, undertook an official six-year expedition from 1768 to 1774 during which he explored the most distant regions of the Russian empire. The journey (taking him first to the Caspian sea, and then across the Urals to Tobolsk, the Altai mountains, Omsk, Kolyvan, Tomsk, and Krasnojarsk, next to Irkoutsk, Lake Baikal, Oudinsk, Sélinghinsk, Kiakhta, the Amour river, and back to Krasnojarsk, thence to Tara, Jaitskoi-Gorodsk, Astrakhan, Tasaritzin and St. Petersburg) is here well described and beautifully illustrated with most of the plates and vignettes by Geissler.
Translated by Francis William Blagdon from the original German edition: Bemerkungen auf einer Reise in die südlichen Statthalterschaften des Russischen Reichs in den Jahren 1793 und 1794. Includes bibliographical references and index.
In 1767, Pallas was invited by Catherine II of Russia to become a professor at the St Petersburg Academy of Sciences and, between 1768 and 1774, he led an expedition to central Russian provinces, Povolzhye, Urals, West Siberia, Altay, and Transbaikal, collecting natural history specimens for the academy. He explored the Caspian Sea, the Ural and Altai Mountains and the upper Amur River, reaching as far eastward as Lake Baikal. The regular reports which Pallas sent to St Petersburg were collected and published as Reise durch verschiedene Provinzen des Russischen Reichs (Journey through various provinces of the Russian Empire) (3 vols., 1771–1776). They covered a wide range of topics, including geology and mineralogy, reports on the native peoples and their religions, and descriptions of new plants and animals. In 1776, Pallas was elected a foreign member of the Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences.
Pallas settled in St Petersburg, becoming a favourite of Catherine II and teaching natural history to the Grand Dukes Alexander and Constantine. He was provided with the plants collected by other naturalists to compile the Flora Rossica (1784–1815), a Russian flora, and started work on his Zoographica Rosso-Asiatica (1811–31), a zoography of Russia and Asia. He also published an account of Johann Anton Güldenstädt’s travels in the Caucasus. The Empress bought Pallas’s large natural history collection for 2,000 rubbles, 500 more than his asking price, and allowed him to keep them for life. During this period, Pallas helped plan the Mulovsky expedition, which was cancelled in October 1787.