Russia, Persia and China at the time of Peter the Great

BELL, John

Travels from St Petersburg in Russia, to Diverse Parts of Asia [to Pekin through Siberia...from Mosco to Derbent in Persia... A Journey from St. Petersburg to Constantinople]

Publication: Glasgow, for the author by Robert and Andrew Foulis, 1763.

BELL, John, Travels from St Petersburg in Russia, to Diverse Parts of Asia [to Ispahan…to Pekin through Siberia…from Mosco to Derbent in Persia… A Journey from St. Petersburg to Constantinople]

The preferred first edition in the Quarto format; with the folding map of Siberia up to China.

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Our Notes & References

First edition of this important account of several travels through Russia to neighbouring countries, now a classic of travel literature. With the engraved folding map of Siberia, from Moscow to Beijing, showing a long view of the Chinese capital in a decorative inset.

After completing his medical studies, the Scotsman John Bell (1691-1780) secured a letter of introduction to the chief physician to Tsar Peter I. Soon after arriving in Russia in 1714, he was “enlisted as doctor to accompany an embassy to Persia, headed by A.P. Valenskii. It left St Petersburg in July 1715 and returned three years later (vol. I, pp. 1-154). In July 1719 he set off again with the embassy of L.V. Izmailov, which travelled through Siberia to arrive at the Chinese border at the end of September 1720 (vol. I, pp. 155-308). They left Pekin on the return journey in March 1721 and arrived in Moscow, where they reported to Peter (vol. II, pp. 124-68). A third journey was with the Russian army under Peter I to Derbent in Persia, May-December 1722 (vol. II, pp. 323-69). After a decade in Scotland Bell returned to St Petersburg to work for the British consul-general Rondeau and was sent on a final mission to Constantinople, December 1737-May 1738 (vol. II, pp. 373-426).” (Cox)

“Despite the tedium of the sixteen-month expedition, Bell’s account of the journey to Kazan and through Siberia to China is the most complete and interesting part of his travels. Of particular note are his descriptions of the Dalai Lama and the Chinese wall, and his residence in Peking (Beijing)’ (ODNB).

The book – the author’s only one – was written years later from journals kept at the time, when Bell was about 70 years old. It also contains the important relation of Lange’s sojourn in China (‘Journal of the Residence of Mr de Lange […] at the Court of Pekin’).

“Printed by Robert and Andrew Foulis of Glasgow whose beautiful font enhances the value of the book” (DNB), on thick paper and in the preferred quarto format, while successive editions (as soon as 1764 in London) were in octavo format.


From the estate of Geoffrey Elliott (1939-2021), banker of Russian descent, author of books on 20th-c. history. Geoffrey and his wife Fay were noted collectors, especially of Oscar Wilde, Evelyn Waugh and other literary figures. Russia was also  important theme: Geoffrey’s grandparents were interned in a Siberian tsarist prison camp before the October Revolution, and he focused most of his published works on the Cold War.

The Elliotts donated a significant part of their collection to the library of Leeds University in 2002, but kept the Russia-related items and continued to acquire a few works too, which we subsequently acquired.


Cross, In the Lands of the Romanovs B23; ESTC T99651; Gaskell 415; Ghani 35; Blackmer 111; Cordier Sinica 2093.

Item number



Physical Description

Two volumes 4to. xvii incl. title, dedication, list of subscribers and preface, [2] t.o.c., and 357 pp., with a folding engraved map; title, 426 pp., errata leaf.


Contemporary calf, flat spine with red and green morocco labels lettered in gilt.


Rebacked retaining original labels, boards rubbed and scratched, lower board of vol.1 with 2cm puncture; browning from map onto the adjacent leaves, marginal brow stain to a few leaves in vol.1, without the advertisement leaf sometimes found at end of vol.1.

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