Rare edition with maximum number of coloured plates

Kotzebue, O. von

Entdeckungs-Reise in die Süd-See und nach der Berings-Strasse zur Erforschung einer nordöstlichen Durchfahrt. Unternommen in den Jahren 1815-1818 auf Kosten Sr. Erlaucht des Herrn Reichs-Kanzlers Grafen Rumanzoff auf dem Schiffe Rurick.

Published 1821
Item ID 76979

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Weimar, Hoffmann, 1821. Three Volumes in one. 4to (26.3 x 20.6 cm). [vi], 168, 176, 24, [i], xviii pp.; three nicely hand-coloured engraved frontispieces, six mostly folded engraved maps, four fine, double-sized aquatinted plates, one plain engraved plate, 12 hand-coloured engraved plates of which 11 depicting butterflies (by Eschholtz and engraved by Erme); in total 26 plates and maps. Three folding tables. Contemporary half calf over marbled boards. Spine with gilt title and rich gilt ornamental bands. Edges speckled red.

A complete copy of the completely hand-coloured edition (i.e., without sepia plates replacing hand-coloured ones), and the plates on high-quality wove paper. The total number published was 490 copies only, of which just 88 completely coloured, as this one. The Baltic-German explorer Otto von Kotzebue (1787-1846) belonged to that group of outstanding Russian naval officers of the first half of the nineteenth century, which included Kruzenstern, Golovnin, Lisianskii (or Lysianskyi), Sarychev, and others who were sent to explore the North Pacific regions and whose highly competent seamanship brought successful conclusions to the expeditions with which they were entrusted. Often accompanied by a staff of scientists and artists, they were responsible for the enlargement of the contemporary knowledge of the Pacific, both northern and southern, to an extent which wins our admiration today. Questions are raised over whether the Russian or German editions were published first. Some reasoning can be advanced in favour of the present German edition being an earlier one, but the evidence is not conclusive for the first two volumes. There is no doubt, however, about the third volume, which in the German edition appeared in the same year, 1821, while in the Russian edition it was not published until two years later. One should add that the Russian edition has a separate atlas of 21 maps, while the German edition has no separate atlas and only seven different maps in all three volumes. On the other hand, the 11 coloured plates of butterflies in the German edition are not present in the Russian issue. The first edition of this famous narrative, telling of the second Russian expedition into the Pacific for scientific exploration. Kotzebue, who had accompanied Krusenstern in 1803-06, left Kronstadt in 1815. "[T]he 'Rurick' mounted Cape Horn and visited Chile, Easter Islands, and the Marshall Islands. Kotzebue explored the North American coast and Hawaii and searched unsuccessfully for a passage to the Arctic Ocean. The description of the northwest coast of America is a most important contribution. The second volume contains a description of California... his account of the October 1816 visit of his ship to the Golden Gate has six plates" (Hill Collection 1, p.164/5). The Rurick had only 27 men, including several scientists, among which were A. von Chamisso, who wrote the first scientific account of the Escholtzia californica, or golden poppy, named after the surgeon Escholtz, also a member of the expedition. Kotzebue discovered several new island-groups, the Krusenstern group, and the Kutusoff and Suwaroff islands to the east of the Carolines. He made important contributions to the exploration of the north-west coast of America, and visiting the Sandwich Islands he also discovered New Year Island. The third part of the present work, especially, is of American interest for the observations on natural history and languages, with a comparative vocabulary by A. von Chamisso (the famous German poet) and the German entomologist and naturalist Johann Friedrich Eschscholtz (1793-1831), who also drew the designs for the fine natural history-plates" (Lada-Mocarski). read more
The present first German edition is the only edition which has 11 plates with 52 coloured drawings of butterflies, which accompany the text of Eschscholtz's chapter on the description of new and foreign Lepidoptera. Provenance: with a stamp of Carl von Heyden on the title pages. Carl Heinrich Georg(es) von Heyden (1793-1866) was a German senator and entomologist. Small skilful restoration to spine. A very good copy in a fine contemporary binding. Horn-Schenkling, 6069; Kroepelien, 670; Lada-Mocarski, Bibliography of Books on Alaska, 80; Sabin 38284. read less

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