RGSSA Library Catalogue

Thursday 13 December 2012

Some Christmas Treats

    For Christmas I've found some goodies from the collection, happened across recently during the cataloguing project. Just picking my way painfully through the 5000-odd remaining titles! Other problems keep cropping up all the time - gee, our maps need cataloguing. (I knew that.) Any qualified map cataloguers out there? We’d love to hear from you! In fact I’d give you a medal. (Not one of those ones kept in the safe, no. But definitely a medal.)

    To be more serious for a moment, it has been a stressful few months at the Royal Geographical Society of South Australia. It isn't helping that the lift in the beautiful old Mortlock Building of the State Library of South Australia is out of order and will not be fixed for some time. That’s a lot of stairs for a person with a crook hip like yours truly. But we are still open, Tuesday to Friday, 10 a.m. to 1 p.m., and browsers are welcome. If there’s a notice up, as often on Fridays, saying that the wing is closed to the public, this does not mean to users of the RGSSA. Just tell State Library Security (you’ll see the desk right there on Level 1) that you would like to visit the RGS. Walk right through the main floor of the Mortlock Building towards North Terrace, up the stairs past the first gallery, and up the next 1/2 flight to the mezzanine, and there we are. Do ask if there is anything in particular you would like to see.

    And so to the Chrissie treats! Well, you may decide they’re oddies rather than goodies, but that's the joy of the collection: you never know what you’ll find next.

Campbell, Donald, 1751-1804.
    A narrative of the extraordinary adventures, and suffering by shipwreck & imprisonment, of Donald Campbell, esq., of Barbreck: with the singular humours of his Tartar guide Hassan Artaz; comprising the occurrences of four years and five days, in an overland journey to India. / Faithfully abstracted from Capt. Campbell's "Letters to his son." The 6th ed. With plates. London : Printed for Vernor, Hood and Sharpe, 1808.
Described in the preface as an "abstract ... of the sixty-three letters" written by "Capt. Campbell, (formerly a Commander in the Cavalry of the Nabob of the Carnatic)", the work briefly covers Donald Campbell's journey across Europe, describes his travels in the Middle East, and gives detailed descriptions of his shipwreck off the Malabar Coast in western India, his capture by the forces of Hyder Ali, and his imprisonment under "Hyat Sahib", i.e. Hyat Saheb or Muhammad Ayaz Khan, the "jemadar" of Bidanore (Bidanur, the Kingdom of Keladi), with a biography of the jemadar. After describing the death of his companion, Mr Hall, in prison, the narrative finishes with Campbell’s release and return home, the British forces under General Mathews having relieved the Malabar forts.

    Here is an example of the text, where we learn how Hyat Saheb was adopted by the ruler of Mysore, Hyder Ali. This is also the point at which Campbell mentions one of the famous figures of Indian history of the period, Hyder Ali’s son, “Tippoo Sahib”. That is, Tipu Sultan, Nawab of Mysore, 1753-1799, “the Tiger of Mysore”. Wikipedia has a very detailed article about the life and times of this extraordinary man, who was fluent in several languages, sent ambassadors to Europe, and died gallantly at the head of his troops fighting the British (causing Sir Walter Scott to compare him to Napoleon, greatly to the latter’s disfavour!):

“IN the evening. of the day on which the jemadar Hyat Sahib had honoured Capt. Campbell with an audience, given him clothes and money, and informed him that a proposal, which he called flattering, would be made to him, he was sent for to attend, not at the court, but at the house of a man high in office. As he expected to meet Hyat Sahib himself, and trembled at the thoughts of his expected proposition, our traveller was surprised, and indeed pleased to find that it was with one of his people only that he was to have a conference. This man received him with great kindness, encouraged him, made him sit down with him, and began to speak of Hyat Sahib, whom he extolled to the skies, as a person endowed with every great and amiable quality, and possessed of the friendship and confidence of his master, Hyder Alli, in a greater degree than any other person, Tippoo Sahib, his own son, not excepted: he then gave him the private history of Hyat - saying, that he was born a Gentoo Prince, of one of the provinces of the Malabar coast, which had fallen beneath the irresistible arms of Hyder, and had been by him annexed to the vast Mysorean empire. Hyat, he said, was then only a boy of eleven or twelve years of age, of a most promising genius, and a quickness of mind unusually met with in one of such tender years. Hyder, who was in all respects a man of unrivalled penetration, thought he saw in the boy that which, if properly cultivated, would turn out of great use to a state; and as, in all Mahomedan governments, unconnected, isolated boys, oft-times slaves, are bred up in the seraglio to succeed to the great offices of the state, Hyder adopted the boy, had him made a Mahomedan, and, in fact, treated him as if he had been the issue of his own loins, and brought him up with all the affection and tenderness of a fond parent. ...”

One does wonder, rather, what Tipu Sultan thought of his father’s favouring another boy!

As you can see, the narrative based on Campbell’s letters is very readable. However. it suffers, typically of many of the memoirs written in the very early 19th century, from an inability to construct a coherent and logical narrative. Thus it isn't always clear exactly when and where, and often why, a given scene takes place. Much of the context is ignored or taken for granted. Another example is the following. Here it’s not only very difficult to establish the context, it’s also hard to fight your way through the pompous moralising. It’s a pity, because the factual bits are really unusual.

Howell, William, 1753-1842
    Some interesting particulars of the second voyage made by the missionary ship, the Duff, which was captured by the Buonaparte privateer in the year 1800 / by W.H., Superintendent to the Mission. Knaresbrough [Yorkshire] : Printed and sold by Hargrove and Sons, 1809.

As far as I can tell “W.H.” was William Howell (1753-1842), the pastor at Knaresborough, Yorkshire. You might expect this to be the tale of a Christian mission to the heathen of some remote place, but it isn't. Howell‘s group of English missionaries started out with this intention but never reached their destination. Approaching Rio de Janeiro they were taken by the French privateer, the Buonaparte, under Captain Rivière, which then sailed, along with the captive Duff, to Montevideo. It was very frightening, especially as the men were separated from the women of the party and nobody knew what was going to happen to them all. But at Montevideo the captives spent some time in comparative freedom. Howell records his observation of the customs, especially at Easter, of the people of Montevideo and the surrounding region. He then recounts his party’s transfer to a Portuguese ship, the Medusa, and the voyage back to Lisbon, where they were freed. The actual events are interesting and so is the record of life in South America at the very turn of the 18th century - but the pious asides are not only very tedious in themselves but make the story very hard to follow!

In the context of our collection, those two are quite expectable. Goodies, then? Though they have their own oddness. The third Christmas offering, however, is definitely an oddie for our collection: it's not travel or exploration or even remotely connected with geography - unless you contend, as some geographers do, that geography is the study of world everything! ...Maybe it's their detractors who say that. Never mind, it's all part of the human pageant - and the collection most certainly shows you that!

Uzanne, Octave, 1852-1931, and Courboin, François, 1865-1926
    Fashion in Paris : the various phases of feminine taste and aesthetics from 1797 to 1897 / by Octave Uzanne ; from the French by Lady Mary Loyd, with one hundred hand-coloured plates & two hundred and fifty text illustrations, by François Courboin. London ; New York : W. Heinemann ; C. Scribner's Sons, 1898.
"The Eiffel Tower, from the Exhibition Gardens (1889)"
The text of Modes de Paris, as it was originally called, is slightly disappointing but the big interest of this book is the pictorial content. The painter and printmaker François Courboin was most active as an original artist in the 1880s-1900s. After that he concentrated on documenting the history of French printmaking: he was conservateur-adjoint du Cabinet des estampes at the Bibliothèque nationale. Among other important works, between 1923 and 1929 Courboin published a massive four-volume Histoire illustrée de la gravure en France. His work also appeared in editions of such prominent authors as Balzac, Musset, and Gautier. His fashion illustrations are distinguished by their clear line drawing and luminous colour.

For me, this is definitely a goodie: I’ve been interested in the history of costume since I was old enough to haul Dad's two big art books off the bottom shelf and onto the carpet - without lifting them, you understand. If you share this interest you might like to know that Courboin’s pictures of earlier periods often pop up in other sources as unattributed examples of the fashions of those times. Be wary: there is obviously a lot of research behind them but they are not, of course, contemporaneous with the fashions they illustrate. You can see particularly in the two examples below that although the fashions have changed drastically, the artist’s distinctive style is the same.

"A drive in a whiskey, Longchamsps, Year V (1797)" and "A smart corner of the Rue Richelieu: the East India Company's warehouse (1854)"
Mille remerciements, cher M. Courboin, for this reminder of the Rue de Richelieu; I walked down it every day for months to the BN when I was a student in Paris. (It is “de”.) Ah, me, the long ago... Or you could say, it's serendipity! Its just wonderful, the unexpected treats that turn up in the RGSSA’s collection!

Thank you so much for your support throughout the year, dear blog readers. It’s so encouraging to see the stats go up and to get some feedback, too. The kind remarks at the RGSSA volunteers’ Chrissie lunch party were most appreciated. As was the lunch!

Wishing you all merry Christmas, happy Hanukah, happy holidays,

and all the very best for a peaceful and safe New Year.


Tuesday 23 October 2012

Gallant 600 - The Charge of the Light Brigade



    Following on from the Russian theme: October 25 is the anniversary of the famous "Charge of the Light Brigade" during the Crimean War. I had to see what 19th-century books we've got on the Crimean War or the Crimea in general at the Royal Geographical Society of South Australia, because the Charge of the Light Brigade raises early memories for me - I was only about 10 when I discovered an old volume of Tennyson which I rather think had belonged to Mum's mother, and so dated back to the turn of the 19th century! Many of the poems were too long and hard for me but I loved The Charge of the Light Brigade. It was first published on 9 December 1854 in the Examiner: Tennyson is said to have written it immediately after reading an account of the battle.

The Charge of the Light Brigade
     by Alfred Lord Tennyson
Half a league, half a league,
Half a league onward,
All in the valley of Death
  Rode the six hundred.
'Forward, the Light Brigade!
Charge for the guns' he said:
Into the valley of Death
  Rode the six hundred.
'Forward, the Light Brigade!'
Was there a man dismay'd?
Not tho' the soldiers knew
  Some one had blunder'd:
Theirs not to make reply,
Theirs not to reason why,
Theirs but to do and die:
Into the valley of Death
  Rode the six hundred.

Cannon to right of them,
Cannon to left of them,
Cannon in front of them
  Volley'd and thunder'd;
Storm'd at with shot and shell,
Boldly they rode and well,
Into the jaws of Death,
Into the mouth of Hell
  Rode the six hundred. 

Flash'd all their sabres bare,
Flash'd as they turned in air
Sabring the gunners there,
Charging an army while
  All the world wonder'd:
Plunged in the battery-smoke
Right thro' the line they broke;
Cossack and Russian
Reel'd from the sabre-stroke
Shatter'd and sunder'd.
Then they rode back, but not
Not the six hundred. 

Cannon to right of them,
Cannon to left of them,
Cannon behind them
  Volley'd and thunder'd;
Storm'd at with shot and shell,
While horse and hero fell,
They that had fought so well
Came thro' the jaws of Death,
Back from the mouth of Hell,
All that was left of them,
  Left of six hundred.

When can their glory fade?
O the wild charge they made!
  All the world wonder'd.
Honour the charge they made!
Honour the Light Brigade,
  Noble six hundred! 

(The picture is Richard Caton-Woodville's "Charge of the Light Brigade", one of the many British paintings which commemorate the Battle of Balaclava.)

The Charge took place on 25 October 1854. It was a disastrous defeat for the British, the sort of defeat the British do tend to memorialise. It was a cavalry charge led by Lord Cardigan against the Russian guns at Sebastopol, during the Battle of Balaclava. "Lord Raglan, overall commander, had intended to send the Light Brigade to pursue and harry a retreating Russian artillery battery near the front line, a task well suited to light cavalry. Due to miscommunication at some level in the chain of command, the sabre-armed Light Brigade was instead sent on a frontal assault into a different artillery battery, one well-prepared with excellent fields of defensive fire. Although reaching the battery under withering direct fire and scattering some of the gunners, the badly mauled brigade was forced to retreat immediately, producing no decisive gains and very high British casualties." (Wikipedia; you can read a detailed account at http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Charge_of_the_Light_Brigade ). 

"Charge of the Light Cavalry Brigade, 25th Oct. 1854, under Major General the Earl of Cardigan",
by William Simpson, 1855, a lithographic print held by the Library of Congress
 The British and Russians were engaged in a huge struggle for world domination (very like something out of a James Bond epic, yes) during the 19th century. For part of the time it was covert and of course they were allies during the Napoleonic Wars, but nevertheless the rivalry continued, with the Russians trying to dominate Afghanistan and Central Asia, and the British trying to stop them and take over Afghanistan themselves whilst consolidating their power in the Indian subcontinent: it was this struggle that gave rise to what Kipling was to call "the Great Game", which he used for the cat-and-mouse spying and counter-spying in the region, though its meaning has been broadened to encompass the entire political struggle between the two powers. The Crimean War (October 1853 - February 1856) was the biggest overt flare-up of this rivalry.

Two of the RGSSA's books on the Crimean War are:

Russell, William Howard, Sir, 1820-1907.
  The British expedition to the Crimea / by W.H. Russell.  Rev. ed. London ; New York : G. Routledge & Co, 1858.
Not one of those English stiff-upper-lip military sirs, but one of the earliest war correspondents! W.H. Russell was a fascinating character, the sort of man who got on well with the lower ranks and was disdained by such as Lord Raglan. (As Raglan was responsible for the order to the Light Brigade to charge the guns, guess who comes best out of that?) Russell was out in the Crimea for 22 months covering the war, including the Charge of the Light Brigade. His dispatches from the front alerted the British public to the appalling conditions suffered by the soldiers, particularly the wounded, and illuminated the whole subject of the brutality and waste of war. "Shocked and outraged, the public's backlash from his reports led the Government to re-evaluate the treatment of troops and led to Florence Nightingale's involvement in revolutionising battlefield treatment." (Wikipedia).
  Russell's subsequent career was equally exciting: in 1856 he was sent to Moscow to describe the coronation of Tsar Alexander II. Next came a journey to India to report on the Indian Mutiny (the Sepoy Rebellion, 1857-1859), where he witnessed the final re-capture of Lucknow by the British in 1858. In 1861 Russell went to Washington, later publishing his account of his experiences during the American Civil War. Next he reported on the Franco-Prussian War (1870-71). In July 1865 he sailed on the "Great Eastern" to document the laying of the Atlantic Cable. In addition to his newspaper reports he published numerous books based on his journals. 
  His appeal as a person is best shown in Punch's 1881 cartoon of him. His tremendous success in his career was rewarded by a knighthood - highly unusual when you consider that not only was he someone whom the aristocrats like Lord Raglan considered not nice to know, he was also an Irishman!

Sandwith, Humphry, 1822-1881.
  A narrative of the Siege of Kars and of the six months' resistance by the Turkish garrison under General Williams to the Russian army : together with a narrative of travels and  adventures in Armenia and Lazistan ; with remarks on the present state of Turkey. 3rd ed. London : J. Murray, 1856.
In the Crimea the British Army fought alongside their allies the French and Turkish armies. In 1855 a little-known but serious siege took place in the eastern corner of Turkey. The British were giving assistance to the Turkish Army at the siege of Kars. In present-day Turkey, Kars has a stormy history: after withstanding a siege by the Persians in 1731 and successfully resisting the Russians in 1807, it fell to the Russians in 1828. It fell again in 1855: the Ottoman garrison led by British officers including General William Fenwick Williams did keep the Russians at bay; but the garrison was devastated by cholera and food supplies were depleted, and the town was surrendered to General Mouravieff in November 1855. Sandwith was the regimental doctor with the Royal Regiment of Artillery in the Crimea. 

Probably most of us today who have heard of the Crimea associate it with the war involving the British and Russians. But in fact the area was recognised at that period as a place of outstanding natural beauty, as the following volume of lithographs bears witness: 

Bossoli, Carlo, 1815-1884.
  The beautiful scenery and chief places of interest throughout the Crimea / from paintings by Carlo Bossoli. London : Day, 1856. 
"Mount Tchatyr-Dagh".
(About 5,200 feet high. Seen from the path leading to the top of Mount Demed-Gi.)

The artist Carlo Bossoli (1815-1884) is known for landscapes, urban views, and historical and military paintings. He was born in Davesco, Italy, but his family emigrated to Odessa when he was young. At 18 years old he sold his first works. In 1845 he returned to Italy, but continued to work across Europe. At the time of the Crimean War views showing the straits of the Bosporus and the towns and forts associated with battles such as Balaklava and Sebastopol were much in demand in England. 
"The Arsenal Harbour, or Military Port, Sebastopol".
(Foreground, old ships of the line, used as prisons; right, the Marine Barracks;
left, part of the town of Sebastopol.)

Bossoli's paintings of the Crimea were very successful in London, and he exhibited at the Royal Academy between 1855 and 1859. In addition to many scenes of the landscape of the Crimea in the 1850s, the pictures include views of the city of Sevastopol' (Sebastopol, as it was then known), and depictions of the way of life, dwellings and costume of the Crimean Tatars (or Tartars).

  One particularly striking image is a scene at Inkerman:

Ïnterior of an Early Christian Church".
(Excavated in the Rock of Inkerman.)
In British reference sources the name Inkerman is remembered as that of the Battle of Inkerman (1854) during the Crimean War, but the battle was actually fought some distance away from the small town of Inkerman, across the river on a nameless ridge between the Tchernaya River and the Careenage Ravine. Today Inkerman is virtually a suburb of Sevastopol', only 5K east of the city, with a population of only just over 10,000. It was of course even smaller back then. Its chief feature is the great rocky outcrop above the river, where in the 8th century a cave monastery of St. Clement was founded by Byzantine icon-worshippers fleeing persecution.
  Bossoli's view seems to have been taken from somewhere inside the dark, cavernous holes in the rocky outcrop which we can see in this 1910 picture from Wikipedia: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Inkerman-c1910.jpg


In spite of the continuing bad relations with the Russian bear, the lion-like British went out to the Crimea regardless throughout the 19th century. Even on "sporting" expeditions (huntin', shootin 'and fishin', by George!). Though as Queen Victoria and her family maintained a close association with the Tsar's family, perhaps it isn't so surprising after all. So amongst the RGSSA's relics of Empire we find:

An account of a visit early in the century by an intrepid woman traveller:

Holderness, Mary.
  New Russia : journey from Riga to the Crimea, by way of Kiev : with some account of the colonization, and the manners and customs of the colonists of New Russia : to which are added, notes relating to the Crim Tatars. London : Printed for Sherwood, Jones and Co., 1823.

And these three on the Crimea after the war. Firstly, one from the 1870s:

Telfer, John Buchan, d. 1907.
  The Crimea and Transcaucasia : being the narrative of a journey in the Kouban, in Gouria, Georgia, Armenia, Ossety,  Imeritia, Swannety, and Mingrelia, and in the Tauric range. London : H. S. King & co., 1876.

And two from the 1880s.

Marvin, Charles, 1854-1890.
  The region of the eternal fire : an account of a journey to the petroleum region of the Caspian in 1883. London : W.H. Allen, 1884.

 Phillipps-Wolley, Clive, Sir, 1854-1918.
  Sport in the Crimea and Caucasus. London : Richard Bentley & Son, 1881.
Yes, by now the Crimea's the scene of jolly good sport - ironic, isn't it?

Such works afford us, alongside the travels in the Crimea, tantalising glimpses of a way of life and its attitudes which are long gone. How well the travelogue comes over depends on the skill of the writers! But we can actually see the Crimea as it was, in the 19th-century equivalent of the TV colour documentary, Bossoli's volume of tinted lithographs: 

"The Grotto of Yursurf".
(In the background, Mount Aya Dagh.)
"Sebastopol from the Northern Forts".

I wonder how many of the well-to-do English who trotted along to the Royal Academy to see Bossoli's pictures, and who could afford the big volume of lithographs, contrasted their beauty with Russell's descriptions of the bloody battles in the Crimea, and reflected bitterly upon the folly and waste of war? Not to say on Lord Raglan's stupidity, flinging light cavalry against the guns. 

It’s 158 years since the charge of the Light Brigade. Perhaps Tennyson's style is too florid for modern tastes. But whilst the poem seems typically Victorian to us, in the way it stresses the soldiers' gallantry and heroism whilst never wondering if the British even had a right to be in the Crimea, it does also show the waste of war: 

                                                All that was left of them,
                                                    Left of six hundred.

Let's think about that, in the year 2012.

This post was researched and created by Kathy Boyes 

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