In a particularly fine Russian binding

IAKINF [ie. Nikita Iakovlevich BICHURIN]

Zapiski o Mongolii. S Prilozheniem karty Mongolii i raznykh kostiumov

[Notes on Mongolia. With a Map of Mongolia and Various Costumes]

Publication: Karl Kray, Skt. Peterburg, 1828.

IAKINF [ie. Nikita Iakovlevich BICHURIN], Zapiski o Mongolii. S Prilozheniem karty Mongolii i raznykh kostiumov

Very attractive example of one of the most important Russian works on Mongolia and Northern China – one of the rare early Russian books with hand-coloured plates. With a large folding map.

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Our Notes & References

Important, early description of Mongolia: first edition of the first book of father Iakinf, called later “the father of Russian sinology”.

Bichurin (1777-1853), here writing under his monastic name Iakinf, was named in 1805 leader of the 9th Russian Mission to Peking and head of the Sretenskii monastery in this town. During his 14-year stay he learnt Chinese, compiled his own dictionary and prepared other scholar works for later publication. He returned to Saint Petersburg in 1821: the first part of these Zapiski contains a detailed travel account of Iakinf’s journey from Pekin to the Russian border town Kiakhta, including descriptions of the Great Wall, of the cities of Kalgan (Zhangjiakou) and Urga (Ulan Bator), the Gobi desert etc.

The three other parts are entirely devoted to Mongolia, then under Chinese rule: its geography, political system, climate, trade, population (its structure, fashion and customs). Bichurin gives a sketch of the history of Mongols, as well as of the legal system used by China to rule the region.

The work was highly appreciated by the Russian and European scientific communities and became an important reference for other sinologists and specialists on Central Asia, being translated into French and German in 1832. Bichurin became a member of the prestigious Russian Academy of Sciences shortly after the publication of these Notes, in 1828; in 1831 he also joined the Asiatic Society of Paris. He went on to publish several works on China and Mongolia. In 1837 he opened the first Chinese-language school in the Russian Empire.

A lovely, very finely bound example of this scarce book, illustrated with hand-coloured plates and a folding map showing the road from Beijing to Kiakhta, with Manchuria, Mongolia and the Eastern Turkestan. The plates show Chinese and Mongol costumes (including a Mongol woman riding a horse) and, as frontispiece, “a noble Chinese man in summer dress” by Orlovskii, the celebrated pioneer of lithography in Russia, and a master of the technique. Several sources, including a 1950s Soviet edition of the book, recognised in this “noble Chinese man” a portrait of Bichurin himself, indeed resembling a portrait sketched by Nikolai Bestuzhev, an artist and a Decembrist who was exiled to Siberia in 1827.


Skt. Peterb. Dukhovnaia Seminariia (ink stamps to both titles, number stamped to first title).


Obolianonov 1027; Solovev, kat. 105, 159 (also in one volume and in a half-binding, marking it 15 rub).

Item number



Physical Description

Four parts in two volumes 8vo, bound in one (22 x 13.7 cm). xii incl. title, 231pp with 5 hand-coloured lithographed plates incl. one frontispiece; vi incl. title, 339 pp. and folding engraved map with hand-coloured outlines.


Contemporary Russian binding of straight-grained purple paper boards with gilt floral border, brown morocco spine with raised bands, elaborately stamped in gilt and blind, small morocco corners, marbled endpapers, all edges gilt.


Occasional light soiling, a few leaves and plates a bit browned, map edges and boards edges rubbed with some paper missing, corners bumped; the beautiful spine spine still very fresh and overall fine condition.

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