Our Notes & References
The preferred hand-coloured version of this lovely work on Russian costume and customs, here in a decorative binding. Both the quantity of plates overall, and of coloured ones especially, tend to vary between copies; unusually, all plates are hand-coloured in this copy, which also contains three supplementary plates.
The engraved plates range from depictions of streets and buildings in St. Petersburg and Moscow (the Kremlin, the Palace of Petrovskii) to picturesque views of small towns and the countryside throughout Russia. These include architecture ranging from imperial palaces to earthen yurts in Kamchatka. Of particular interest are portrayals of local country houses, gardens, men and women from various ethnic, cultural and occupational backgrounds in their characteristic dress (Kalmuks playing chess (!), Central Asian, Arctic, Siberian, Far-Eastern peoples…), horse-drawn sleighs, Russian musical instruments, religious practices, sorcerers from the provinces, etc.
These delicate illustrations were engraved after originals by the French painter Michel-Francois Damame-Demartrait (also Demartrais, 1763-1827) and by the English artist Robert Ker-Porter (1777-1842), who visited Russia as historical painter for the Tsar.
The text by Breton was taken from various contemporary publications of voyages and historical accounts that the author cites in the preface. Given the paucity of first-rate material on Russia, these volumes provided one of the best affordable descriptive and pictorial surveys of the Russia at the beginning of the nineteenth century. It inspired a similar and successful publication in English, by Shoberl, published by Ackermann a decade later.
Brunet I-1226; Colas 436; Quérard I-506.