RGSSA Library Catalogue

Thursday 20 September 2012

From Russia with Love


 We have been rather at a loss at the RGSSA these last few weeks as our dear Librarian, Kevin Griffin, is very ill. He has done a tremendous lot of work, both in managing the library on a day-to-day basis and in curating and setting up the exhibitions. It will be very hard to fill his shoes. Volunteers are rallying round and we had a good turnout at the recent meeting of the Library Committee. Special thanks are due to Jenny, Alan, and our new volunteer, Janet, who are helping with the shelf tidying and shelving.

 I hadn't managed to prepare anything for the blog this month but the Society's President, Rod Shearing, who is being a tower of strength all round, has written a contribution on Russia for it. Coincidentally, we did have an online contact from Russia back at the beginning of the year (very exciting!), but although our webmaster asked around I don’t think anybody knew how to say "Happy New Year" in Russian.

Rod writes:

Geographical News - From Russia with Love

We recently received a postcard from our Secretary, Paul Hayes, who has recently travelled through Russia (Siberia) to Moscow and then through Spain and Italy. Paul noticed a building in Irkutsk that was a part of the East Siberian Branch of the Russian Geographical Society. During the Communist putsches of the 1930’s and 40’s the Branch probably closed. At that time the Communist Party seemed to think the Geographical Society was too concerned with ‘environmental’ issues and not collective farming issues. ( http://int.rgo.ru/about/ )

Through Wikipedia we read that the Siberian branch of the Russian Geographical Society was founded in the 1850’s in Irkutsk, and afterwards became a permanent centre for the exploration of Siberia; while the opening of the Amur and Sakhalin attracted Richard Maack, Schmidt, Glehn, Gustav Radde, and Leopold von Schrenck, who created works on the flora, fauna, and inhabitants of Siberia.

The scientific exploration of Siberia, commenced in the period of 1720 to 1742 by Daniel Gottlieb Messerschmidt, Johann Georg Gmelin, and Louis de l'Isle de la Croyere, was followed up by Gerhardt Friedrich Müller, Fischer, and Johann Gottlieb Georgi. Peter Simon Pallas, with several Russian students, laid the first foundation of a thorough exploration of the topography, fauna, flora, and inhabitants of the country. The journeys of Christopher Hansteen and Georg Adolf Erman were the most important step in the exploration of the territory. Alexander von Humboldt, Christian Gottfried Ehrenberg, and Gustav Rose also paid short visits to Siberia.

The Russian Geographical Society is the oldest scientific organization in Russia that has been uniting professional geographers and other scientists, public figures and geography buffs since 1845. See more through http://int.rgo.ru/about/ 

Our Society has around 90 references to Russia through its collections dating from 1699, including 11 titles by A von Humboldt dating from 1850.

The pictures show the ornate building in Irkutsk and an 1886 scene crossing the Angara river at Irkutsk.

Rod's notes have inspired me to have a look in the catalogue, so here is just a sampling of the Russia-related titles, some expectable but some rather surprising, in the library of the Royal Geographical Society of South Australia.

A very early English experience of Russia is chronicled in the "English reprints" edition of this little 1590 work:

Webbe, Edward, b. 1553 or 4
Edward Webbe, chief master gunner, his trauailes. 1590. London : A. Murray & Son, 1868.

In a time when Queen Elizabeth I was on the throne and England did not rule the waves of the so-called known world, but Spain and the Turkish Ottoman Empire did, the 12-year-old Edward Webbe's father placed him in the service of Captain Anthony Jenkinson, England's ambassador to Russia, who sailed from England in 1566. Webbe's little book recounts in simple, direct, everyday language the story of his adventures abroad, his observations of how the foreigners he saw lived and behaved, and his long years as a galley slave: as he puts it, the "extreme slavery sustained many years together, in the galleys and wars of the Great Turk against the lands of Persia, Tartaria, Spain, and Portugal." The reprint edition reproduces the Elizabethan spelling of the original, but it is still quite readable.

Another venture to Russia, a century later, is one of the most mysterious works in the collection:

Foy de la Neuville.
An account of Muscovy : as it was in the year 1689. In which the troubles that happen'd in that empire from the present Czar Peter's election to the throne, to his being firmly settled in it, are particularly related. With a character of him, and his people. By Monsieur de la Neuville, then residing at Moscow. London : printed for Edward Castle, 1699.

"Foy de la Neuville is the mysterious author of 'Relation curieuse de la Moscovie', a late seventeen-hundreds account of a foreign traveler's trek to Russia. Almost nothing is known about this author, not even his real name. His reasons for traveling to Muscovy are also not known with certainty. It is speculated that he may have been a Polish diplomat assigned to Russia." His book decribes Foy de la Neuville's "visit to Russia in the Winter months of 1689. The writing shows that he clearly had access to the Russian government and its officials at high levels. It has been at times suggested that he never actually visited Russia..." Some of his stories may be taken from other writers or simply made up, but "it is clear that even more are not. His travels to Russia in service of the king of Poland are well documented." He has been identified as another writer, Adrien Baillet, but this has been disproved. (Source: "Foy de la Neuville", Wikipedia)

Direct from Russia, 1823, is the catalogue of maps, nautical charts and manuscripts from the library of Prince Aleksandr Lobanov-Rostovskii (variously known in the literature as Prince Alexandre/Alexander Labanoff, Prince Alexandre Labanoff de Rostoff, Fürst Alexander Lobanow Rostowsky, or, as here, le prince Alexandre Labanoff de Rostoff):

Lobanov-Rostovskii, Aleksandr IAkovlevich, kniaz, 1788-1866.
Catalogue des cartes géographiques, topographiques & marines, de la bibliothèque du prince Alexandre Labanoff de Rostoff, à Saint  Pétersbourg :  Suivi d'une notice de manuscripts. Paris : Typ. de Firmin Didot, 1823.

Look out! A Russian spy is out and about at RGSSA!

Nikolaevskii, Boris Ivanovich.
Aseff : the Russian Judas / by Boris Nicolaievsky ;  translated from the Russian by George Reavey ; with 16 illustrations. London : Hurst & Blackett, [1934.
Evno (or Yevno) Fishelevich Azef (variously Aseff, Azev), 1869-1918, was "a Russian socialist revolutionary who was also a double agent working both as an organizer of assassinations for the Socialist-Revolutionary Party (also known as SRs or Esers) and a police spy for the Okhrana, the Imperial secret police." One might have expected him to meet a horrid fate, as his whole adult life seems to have been one of trickery and deception interspersed with assassination (including that of the Tsar's uncle, the Grand Duke Sergius Alexandrovich, in 1905). However, though he was in prison during the First World War it was merely as an enemy alien, in Germany, and far from being put against a wall as he richly deserved, he died of kidney disease shortly thereafter. (Source: "Yevno Azef", Wikipedia)

Two intrepid ladies in Russia, spanning two centuries:

Craven, Elizabeth Craven, Baroness, 1750-1828
A journey through the Crimea to Constantinople. : In a series of  letters from the Right Honourable Elizabeth Lady Craven, to His Serene Highnesse the Margrave of  Brandebourg, Anspach, and Bareith. Written in the year  MDCCLXXXVI. Dublin : printed for H. Chamberlaine, R. Moncrieffe, W. Colles, G. Burnet, W. Wilson, L. White, P. Byrne, P. Wogan, H. Colbert, J. Moore, J. Jones, and B. Dornin, 1789.

Elizabeth, Lady Craven, was later the Margravine of Ansbach, so the letters are that much more interesting on account of it!

Portrait of Lady Craven by George Romney
Elizabeth Craven, a daughter of the Earl of Berkeley, was born to the purple, but her life was certainly not the conventional one of a proper English lady of the 18th century. She was a talented woman who wrote, in addition to her letters and travel works, a number of musical works and light works for the stage. In her day she was not best known for her talents, however. "Her life was full of scandal". She was married for thirteen years to William Craven, 6th Baron Craven. They had six children, but after "affairs reported on both sides," separated in 1780. In those days divorce was extremely difficult in Britain, one had to get an Act of Parliament passed, which apparently was a very expensive business. The Cravens did not divorce: instead Elizabeth went abroad, where "she maintained a romantic relationship with Alexander, Margrave of Brandenburg-Ansbach and Bayreuth" - yes, the addressee of her letters. In 1791 both his wife and Lady Craven's husband died, and Elizabeth was able to marry the Margrave. They then settled in England, where she was generally known as the Margravine, in spite of the fact that Germanic law in fact forbade her the title - which also meant she could not be received at Court by her husband's cousin, King George III. Many proper persons shunned her, but this did not stop her and the Margrave living "a full and opulent life". They had a house in Hammersmith, London, and a country place, Benham Park, at Speen in Berkshire. He died in 1806, and Elizabeth returned to the Continent, to live in Naples at the lovely Craven Villa in Posillipo. She died there in 1828 and was buried in the English Cemetery. (Source: "Elizabeth Craven", Wikipedia)

Marsden, Kate, 1859-1931
On sledge and horseback to outcast Siberian lepers / by Kate Marsden ; Illustrated from photographs and drawings. London : Record Press, [1892?]

"While serving as a nurse in Bulgaria, Kate Marsden saw firsthand the horrors of leprosy--and determined to journey to the leper colonies of Yakutsk, 2,000 miles across the Siberian wastes. Armed with the patronage of both Queen Victoria and the Russian Czarina, she strode forth. With passion and wit, this extraordinary Victorian lady recounts the amazing story of her search for the lepers and for an elusive remedial herb." (Publisher's description, "On sledge and horseback to outcast Siberian lepers / Kate Marsden ; with an introduction by Eric Newby", London, Phoenix, 2001)

Siberia is well represented in the collection. British relations with Russia were hardly at their peak during the 19th century but nevertheless we have a range of British publications that were written by travellers to Siberia throughout the century; these are just a couple:

A trip taken in the 1820s:

Cochrane, John Dundas, 1780-1825.
Narrative of a pedestrian journey through Russia and  Siberian Tartary, from the frontiers of China to the frozen sea and Kamtchatka; performed during the years 1820, 1821, 1822, and 1823 by Capt. John Dundas Cochrane. London : John Murray, 1824.

Another trip, thirty years later:

Atkinson, Thomas Witlam, 1799-1861.
Oriental and western Siberia : a narrative of seven years' explorations and adventures in Siberia, Mongolia, the Kirghis Steppes, Chinese Tartary, and part of central Asia Oriental and western Siberia and Chinese Tartary. London : Hurst and Blackett, 1858.

And to return to the subject of Irkutsk, which the Trans-Siberian Railway reached in 1898, in the pamphlet collection we have:

The Great Siberian Railway / edited by the Chancery of the Committee of Members. St. Petersburg : Govt. Printing Office 1901.

Above, a train on the Trans-Siberian Railway, between Perm and Ekaterinburg, circa 1910. (A very early coloured photograph; the original is in the Library of Congress.) Below, map of section of the railway showing position of Irkutsk, far right:

This post was researched and created by Kathy Boyes