First reliable account of the Mongols
Zapiski o Mongolii.
[Notes on Mongolia]. S Prilozheniem Karty Mongolii i Raznykh Kostiumov [With a Map of Mongolia and different costumes]. St. Petersburg Karl Kray 1828
First edition, text only, two volumes bound in one, pp.xii, 230; vi, 339. Bound without plates and map. Text only, bound without the five hand coloured lithographed plates and the folding engraved map. Period style gilt tooled half calf with marbled boards and black gilt lettered label. Title page stained, old library stamp on verso of the title page of first volume, detached bookplate label with erased text "Ex libris A.D. Popov". A very good copy.
Lust 186; Not in Brunet; COPAC shows one copy only, at London Library.
Nikita Yakovlevich Bichurin, 1777-1853, better known by his monastic name, Iakinf, was one of the founding fathers of Sinology. He served in the Russian orthodox mission in Peking for 14 years, he translated ancient and medieval Chinese manuscripts, hitherto unknown to Europe, he published numerous books and papers on Chinese Mongolian and Tibetan history, geography, religion, and agriculture. In 1837 he opened the first Chinese-language school in the Russian Empire. He was elected to the Russian, German, and French Academies of Sciences for his contributions to Sinology. Father Iakinf was dismissed from his first post as Archimandrite in Irkutsk, and banned to the monastery of Tobolsk where he was employed as a teacher of rhetoric. The reason for his dismissal, neglect of his spiritual duties, followed him throughout his colourful career, during which he became one of the most prolific scholars Russia has ever known. In 1805 he was named leader of the 9th Russian mission to Peking, and head of the Sretenskii monastery at Peking. He arrived in Peking early in 1808, and immediately set out to learn to read and write Chinese. He began the compilation of his own dictionary, which he completed during the fourteen years of his stay. The mission itself was not a success. The Russian government, concerned with the war against Napoleon, did not offer any support, and Iakinf was ordered to return to Russia in 1821. On his return he was again banned for neglecting his duties, and confined for four years in the Valaam-monastery. E.F. Timkovskii, who had met Iakinf when he accompanied the 10th mission to Peking, ensured that the ban was lifted and employment in the Asiatic Department was secured. The monk spent little time there, instead working to complete his publications begun in Peking. Between 1826 and 1830 Iakinf published six books, the present of which, 'Notes on Mongolia,' established his reputation both Russian and European scientific circles. It became an important reference for Sinologists and specialists on Central Asia, and was translated into French and German. The first part of this book contains a detailed itinerary of Iakinf's journey from Peking to the Russian border town Kyakhta in 1821, with descriptions of the Great Wall of China, the cities of Kalgan (Zhangjiakou) and Urga (Ulan Bator), and the Gobi desert. The second part is devoted to Mongolia, then under Chinese rule: its geography, political system, climate, trade, classes, appearance of Mongols, their dwellings, food, customs, religious services, folklore etc. The third part contains a sketch of the history of Mongols; the fourth, the Mongolian Code of Law used by its Chinese overlords. The stunning plates depicting Mongol costumes and the map are not present here.