In the Lands of the Romanovs: An Annotated Bibliography of First-hand English-language Accounts of the Russian Empire (1613-1917)/Preface

From Wikiversity
Jump to: navigation, search

Preface[edit]

The compilation of bibliographies is a long and exacting business. To hurry is inevitably to invite numerous omissions, although slowness is obviously not in itself a virtue, but it allows more generously for serendipity, the fortuitous discovery of unsuspected relevant material. This bibliography has been decades in its maturation. Its origins can be traced as far back as the late 1960s, when I was invited to become the General Editor of a reprint series for Frank Cass Publishers, entitled “Russia through European Eyes” and producing eleven titles by 1972. It was a period when I began to collect travel accounts of Russia, initially desultorily but soon assiduously, and also completed the anthology Russia under western eyes, 1517-1825 (1971) that reflected early travellers’ reactions to the Muscovy/Russia they visited not only in words but in drawings and paintings. Some years later I compiled for IDC Publishers of Leiden a finding list of some 400 accounts, 250 of which were made available on microfiche and described in Russia through the eyes of foreigners: travel and personal accounts from the sixteenth century to the October Revolution 1917.

My intention to produce a bibliography of personal accounts of Russia had stalled, however, with the appearance of Harry W. Nerhood’s To Russia and return: an annotated bibliography of travelers’ English-language accounts of Russia from the ninth century to the present, published in 1968 by Ohio State University Press. If it had even approached its compiler’s intention to “bring together in one place the pertinent information on all available reports of journeys to Russia that have been published in the English language”, my work would have been unnecessary. Although frequently cited as comprehensive and authoritative, Nerhood’s bibliography fails on almost every count and is an unreliable guide for any researcher or, indeed, collector. Leaving aside the inaccuracies in describing editions, dating journeys, and annotating contents, suffice it to say that for the three centuries or so during which the Romanovs occupied the Russian throne it registers some 630 accounts, which is just over half the total included and described in the present work.

Fortunately, there are a number of bibliographies and other sources, published both earlier and later, that supplement and correct Nerhood and they are listed in my “Bibliography of bibliographies”. Nonetheless, there is none that shares the same aims and objectives of the present work.

I have registered 1243 personal accounts, ranging from a few letters or diary entries to mighty tomes, that have appeared in book form – I exclude journal publications and manuscript sources which in an ideal world and with generous assistance would be collected. The bibliography is not simply or only one of travel accounts, although travellers, be they tourists or explorers, dominate. The emphasis is on the personal account, be the author diplomat or merchant, engineer or craftsman, physician or clergyman, gardener or artist, governess or tutor, or much else, of a residence in or visit to Russia, a Russia widely understood and in keeping with the historical moment.

Many of the books did not of course appear in the lifetimes of the writers and the transition from archive to printed book continues apace. Nevertheless, the bibliography is arranged chronologically in accord with the date of the writer’s arrival in Russia or the beginning of an account, and is subdivided, with the exception of the Crimean War, according to the reigns of the various Romanovs. It provides a clear impression of the significant quantitative increase from the seventeenth century through the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries and ending with the twenty-two-year reign of Nicholas II, abruptly truncated, but witnessing a veritable flood of works during years that encompassed wars and revolutions on an unprecedented scale and attracted for many and varied reasons the eyes and minds of the world.

It is the first English edition of a work that is registered and subsequent editions are only noted if they introduce significant changes or additions. Numerous accounts that were written by Americans and many more that have been translated into English, principally from German and French, are of course included. However, the first edition of a work as originally published in America is given only if there was no subsequent English edition. The original titles of translated works are provided where appropriate.

The award of a Leverhulme Emeritus Fellowship in 2008 was the catalyst that allowed a mass of handwritten cards and notebooks to be brought into initial order with the secretarial assistance of Teresa Jones. I am truly grateful to the Leverhulme Trust for the award that also enabled me to visit St Petersburg and inspect rare editions in the incomparable collection of Rossica in the State Public Library. It also, most importantly, allowed me to enlist as my research assistant Robin Mills, whose input has been invaluable, particularly for the Crimean War and Nicholas II sections. When my work on the entries was complete I was fortunate to have my Author Index expertly prepared by Charlotte Simpson.

All the books listed have been examined de visu with a few exceptions or, in the case of rare American editions, from digitalized versions. The vast majority of the books are held in the British Library and in the Cambridge University Library, where I am particularly indebted to the staff in the Rare Books Room for their expertise and unfailing patience in dealing with a seemingly unending flow of requests. I am grateful to Julie Curtis in Oxford and Angela Byrne in Dublin for tracking down particularly elusive items.

The following details have been registered: name of author (anonymous authors subsequently identified are in square brackets), title, place of publication, publisher and year, number of pages or of volumes. Each entry is annotated with brief details of author, including dates of birth and death whenever possible, the itinerary and specific dates of journey/residence in Russia (with pages indicated). The five items from the reign of Catherine II marked with an asterisk are the products of armchair travellers and are included as a warning to those who might regard them as authentic. Three later accounts, the authenticity of which is open to doubt, are also similarly indicated. Dates are according to the New Style, but the designations of the two 1917 revolutions as the February and the October have been retained.

Finally, it is a privilege to acknowledge the generous financial contribution that the Cambridge University Library has made towards the publication of this bibliography and to express my gratitude to Open Book Publishers of Cambridge and its managing director Dr Alessandra Tosi for their willingness to take on the project and bring it to a rapid and successful conclusion.


Cambridge, January 2014


[Back to contents]