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Auction 15: Fine Collection of Californiana Formed by Daniel G. Volkmann Jr.

Lot 120: Langsdorff's Voyages and Travels

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120. LANGSDORFF, G. H. von. Voyages and Travels in Various Parts of the World, during the Years 1803, 1804, 1805, 1806, and 1807.... Illustrated by Engravings from Original Drawings. London: Printed for Henry Colburn...and Sold by George Goldie, Edinburgh; and John Cumming, Dublin, 1813. xxi [3, blank] 362 [6, index]; [8] 386 [6, index] pp., 21 engraved plates (including stipple-engraved frontispiece portrait of author; tribespeople of San Jose Mission; and artifacts of California Natives), engraved folded map (Map of the World Illustrating the Voyages and Travels of G. H. von Langsdorff... [below neat line]: London, Published Feby. 1st. 1814, by Henry Colburn, Conduit Street | Thomson & Hall, Sculpt. 14, Bury Strt. Bloomsby:; 24.5 x 39.2 cm; 9-5/8 x 15-3/8 inches). 2 vols. in one, 4to, full contemporary diapered calf, covers gilt-ruled and blind-rolled, spine with black morocco gilt-lettered labels and raised bands, marbled edges and endpapers (neatly rebacked, original spine preserved). Minor shelf wear, minor voids to leather on both boards, slight abrasion to front pastedown from removal of bookplate, text uniformly age-toned, offsetting from plates (sometimes heavy) affecting several leaves, title page and first three leaves of vol. 2 heavily foxed, some plates heavily foxed. A good to very good complete copy.

    First edition in English, translated from the German edition published in Frankfurt in 1812. Cowan I, p. 135. Cowan II, p. 382. Forbes, Hawaiian National Bibliography 435. Graff 2391. Hill 969. Howell 50, California 140. Howes L81. Kroepelien 708. Cf. Lada-Mocarski 69: “Represents an important contribution to our knowledge of Russian America and of California at that time.” Mathes, California Colonial Bibliography 77n. O’Reilly & Reitman 735. Pilling 2194b: “Contains the meaning of a few words and names of natives of Alaska, vol. 2, pp. 1-144, 219-246. Same of natives of California, notably near San Francisco, vol. 2, pp. 145-217. Also brief comparison of languages of different islands.” Sabin 38896. Streeter Sale 3506 (uncut in boards!). Wickersham 6245.


Physician and naturalist of the great Russian scientific circumnavigation expedition commanded by Ivan Fedorovich Kruzenshtern from its sailing from Copenhagen in 1803 to 1805, Georg Heinrich von Langsdorff left the expedition in Kamchatka in the company of imperial chamberlain to Alexander I and director of the Russian-American Company Nikolai Petrovich Rezanov, and proceeded to the Aleutians, Kodiak, and Sitka aboard the Mariia under Andrei Vasilievich Mashin. In 1806, he, Rezanov, and Gavriil Ivanovich Davydov sailed from Sitka on the Juno under Nikolai Alesandrovich Khvostov to seek supplies from the Spanish presidio of San Francisco.
    He provides detailed descriptions of the region and of his meeting with commandant José Argüello. The visit resulted in the famed romance between Rezanov and Concepción de Argüello, the Spanish commander’s daughter, who pined thirty-six years for him before learning of his death and taking the veil as a Dominican nun for the remainder of her life. Gertrude Atherton’s 1914 book, California, An Intimate History, retells the story of this ill-fated couple, and their story is also the subject of Bret Harte’s poem published in George H. Elliot’s 1874 The Presidio of San Francisco (see item 71 herein).
    Langsdorff was responsible for the eventual founding of Fort Ross by the Russian-American Company in 1812. Langsdorff and Rezanov, successful in obtaining supplies, returned to Sitka and then proceeded to Siberia aboard the Rostislav commanded by John D’Wolf, and thence overland to St. Petersburg, arriving in 1808. Langsdorff later was Russian consul in Río de Janeiro (1813-1820) and conducted an expedition to the Matto Grosso and Amazon (1825-1829). Extensive descriptions of Brazil, the coasts of South America, the Pacific Islands, Hawaii, and Japan while aboard the Nadezhda are found in the first volume, and the second is devoted to Langsdorff’s travels after leaving the Kruzenshtern expedition. Unable to collect specimens or study in detail, most of Langsdorff’s account is geographic and ethnographic rather than scientific.

––W. Michael Mathes

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