Voyages et Mémoires…. Count Maurice Auguste BENYOWSKY.
Voyages et Mémoires…
Voyages et Mémoires…

Voyages et Mémoires…
Voyages et Mémoires…

Paris: F. Buisson, 1791.

Two volumes, octavo, half-title not present in the first volume; old French sprinkled calf, spine gilt with double labels.

First French edition

First edition in French of this scarce narrative of a voyage in the north Pacific, particularly interesting for Alaska, Kamchatka and the Northwest. Often regarded as a distinctly odd book with its gripping account of Siberia, Kamchatka, Japan, China and the north Pacific, it is deemed by Lada-Mocarski as 'one of the early and fundamental books on the Northwest coast of America in general and on Alaska in particular'.

First edition in French of this scarce narrative of a voyage in the north Pacific, particularly interesting for Alaska, Kamchatka and the Northwest. Often regarded as a distinctly odd book with its gripping account of Siberia, Kamchatka, Japan, China and the north Pacific, it is deemed by Lada-Mocarski as 'one of the early and fundamental books on the Northwest coast of America in general and on Alaska in particular'.
Benyowsky's account has suffered from the time of publication until now from a perception that its narrative may not be entirely truthful. Nicholson's preface to this first edition is quite argumentative on the subject, seeking to prove its veracity by all sorts of checks against maps and other narratives. The preface has Benyowsky losing his memory, the attempted publication by subscription failing, the engraver's house burning down and thus losing many of the engravings intended for the volume (which would explain the strange gaps in numbering of the engravings), and a host of other bizarre circumstances which should perhaps come under the heading "no smoke".
Even Benyowsky's nationality is (and was) in doubt. At different times he was either by nationality or service Hungarian, Austrian, Lithuanian, German, Polish and Russian. Exiled by the Russian government to Siberia for political involvements: 'with a handful of equally adventurous men, he escaped from Kamchatka by sea in 1771… The work contains interesting accounts of Siberia, the Russian fur trade, and the history, life and customs of Kamchatka. The author also describes the Kurile and Aleutian Islands, and claims to have landed on the Alaska mainland…' (Hill). 'In the Alaska-related material of this journal there is a very good general account of the Aleutian Islands, and a history and description of early Russian visits to Alaska..' (Lada-Mocarski).
As Howgego points out 'The composer Boieldieu would later write a comic opera based on Benyowsky's exploits, including his escape from Kamchatka. Catherine the Great took the opera very seriously, deciding that the settlement of exiles in the Siberian northeast jeopardized Russia's situation there'.

Cordier, 'Japonica', 453; Lust, 317.

Price (AUD): $2,400.00  other currencies     Ref: #2402358

Condition Report