VANCOUVER, George (1757-1798)
[VANCOUVER] Puteshestvie v severnuiu chast’ Tikhago Okeana i vokrug sveta, sovershennoe v 1790, 1791, 1792, 1793, 1794 i 1795 godakh, Kapitanom Georgiem Vankuverom.
Sanktpeterburg : v Morskoĭ tipografii, 1827-1838. Six volumes, octavo, modern half leather over marbled boards, pp , iii, 333; , 524; , 422, ; , 511; , 559; , 297; nineteenth century ink inscription on title page of volume 2, red ink stamp of a private library on half-title of volume 5, occasional mild foxing, one page with expert repair; a very good set.
Rare first and only Russian edition of George Vancouver’s A voyage of discovery to the North Pacific Ocean, and round the world (London, 1798).
The Russian publication was initiated and supervised by Ivan Krusenstern (1770-1846), the celebrated Russian circumnavigator, and issued under the auspices of the State Admiralty Department, a branch of the Russian Naval Ministry responsible for its scientific and educational activities, of which Krusenstern had been a member since 1808. The first two volumes have a printed note on the title page, ‘Published by the State Admiralty Department’; this is not present in the later volumes as they were published after the Admiralty Department had been dissolved and all its functions transferred to the Scientific Committee of the Naval Ministry. The original English text was translated by Georg Gustav von Engelhardt (1775-1862), a German-born Russian writer and educator, director of the Lyceum in Tsarskoye Selo (1816-23). Engelhardt was already known for his editorship of the first published account of Ferdinand von Wrangell’s voyage to the Arctic coast of Eastern Siberia in 1820-24 (Reise längs der Nordküste von Sibirien und auf dem Eismeer in den Jähren 1820-24; Berlin, 1829).
The Russian edition of Vancouver’s voyage contains a preface explaining the importance of the publication, most likely written by Ivan Krusenstern himself. The print run of the Russian edition was 600 copies (Zapiski Gosudarstvennogo Admiralteyskogo Departamenta, vol. 12, pp. i and xxxvii; vol. 13, pp. xxvi and xli). The book, although of major importance for navigation along the coast of Russian America, has never been reissued in Russia and has become a bibliographic rarity.
‘Vancouver … had served earlier with both Admiral Rodney and on James Cook’s second and third voyages, so was well equipped in terms of experience; in addition, he was a first class navigator. The voyage was mounted as a grand-scale expedition to reclaim Britain’s rights, resulting from the Nootka Convention, at Nootka Sound, to thoroughly examine the coast south of 60¼ in order to find a possible passage to the Atlantic; and to learn what establishments had been founded by other powers. This voyage became one of the most important ever made in the interests of geographical knowledge. Vancouver sailed by way of the Cape of Good Hope to Australia, where he discovered King George’s Sound and Cape Hood, then to New Zealand, Hawaii, and the northwest coast of America. In three seasons’ work Vancouver surveyed the coast of California; visited San Francisco and San Diego … and other Spanish settlements in Alta California; settled the necessary formalities with the Spanish at Nootka; investigated the Strait of Juan de Fuca; discovered the Strait of Georgia; circumnavigated Vancouver Island; and disproved the existence of any passage between the Pacific and Hudson Bay’ (Hill, Pacific Voyages, 2004, p.623).
From the preface to the Russian edition: ‘Among all the voyages undertaken by Englishmen in the last half of the past century for the development of Geography, one of the most important was of course the voyage of Captain Vancouver, because of both the numerous hydrographical studies which it carried out, and also the exemplary precision and detail in this famous navigator’s surveys of the shores of America, whose description, because of their natural appearance, presents extreme difficulties. In this regard Vancouver’s voyage deserves the attention of every naval officer, but his voyage is especially important for Russian navigators, because the surveys of Vancouver, encompassing the whole northwest coast of America, for the most part explain the position and features of that part of it which now belongs to Russia.
Since the time when our ships started navigating the South Sea and visiting Russian-American settlements, the account of Vancouver’s voyage has increasingly become a necessity; as a guide for our officers visiting these shores, it can be as important as the astronomical tables used for the calculation of their observations. But this useful work has not existed previously in our native language, and therefore has remained unavailable to those of our officers who are not fluent enough in foreign languages. This obstacle has been even more obvious for the officials of the Russian-American Company, and there has been constant demand from all of them to have the Russian translation of Vancouver’s voyage.
The State Admiralty Department, having been convinced of the great benefit of the appearance of this book in Russian, and wishing to provide our compatriots with all the advantages that would derive from it, have decided to undertake the publication of such a translation. As a result, the first part of Vancouver’s voyage is now being issued, which will be followed by the other parts in due course. To fulfil its objectives this book should not be expensive, in order that it can be of use to everyone; for this reason the Russian translation will not have the engraved views which embellish the English original, as they would significantly increase the price, and are merely subjects of luxury and curiosity. Similarly, it has been deemed unnecessary to publish in Russian Vancouver’s Atlas, because the majority of its maps are included in the two collections of maps recently published in Russian.’
Forbes, 687; Strathern, 582 (ix); Kroepelien, 1312 (noting that the edition exists)
OCLC locates only one complete set (University of Washington Library); Harvard University Library holds volume 2 only.
We can trace no set in rare book auction records for the last one hundred years.