An empire of many peoples

GEORGI, Johan Gottlieb

Description de toutes les nations de l'empire de Russie. Beschreibung aller Nationen des Rußischen Reichs (part 4)

Publication: J.C. Schnoor, with Weitrecht (part 3-4), for Carl Wilhelm Müller, St. Petersbourg, 1776, 76, 77 & 1780.

GEORGI, Johan Gottlieb, Description de toutes les nations de l’empire de Russie. Beschreibung aller Nationen des Rußischen Reichs (part 4)

A complete copy of this groundbreaking work. First edition.

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Fine example of the first edition of this remarkable work: the first significant Russian publication with plates coloured by hand, and the first survey of the peoples of Russia.

With 95 plates in beautiful contemporary colour by Roth, the leading engraver in St. Petersburg in the 1770s. He also engraved fine firework displays, frontispieces and vignettes (such as those that appear in Catherine the Great’s celebrated Nakaz).

This copy is complete. The first three parts of the text are in French, while the fourth part, which was added after Roth’s death four years later, was published only in German. All captions are printed in Russian, German and French. This copy contains a variation of pl. 73 depicting a naked ‘Chukotskaya baba’.

This important book is the first extensive survey of the peoples of Russia, as well as their customs and behaviour. It enjoyed long-lasting success and its fine plates were used as models for many Western (and often inferior) imitations. The work is divided into four parts: I. People of the Finnish tribe (25 plates); II. Tatar people (30 plates); III. Samoyed, Manchu and Eastern Siberian people (20 plates); and IV. Mongolian peoples, Russians and other peoples (mostly Cossacks) (20 plates).

The German geographer and chemist Johann Gottlieb Georgi (1729-1803) made a career in Russia in the service of Catherine the Great. After completing his studies at St. Petersburg’s Russian Academy of Sciences, Georgi accompanied the German zoologist and biologist Peter Simon Pallas on an expedition through Siberia, during which he took a particular interest in Lake Baikal and its surrounding area. The author of the Neue Deutsche Biographie claims, ‘It is hard to overestimate Georgi’s work. His records provide extensive and accurate ethnographical, economical, botanical and geographical descriptions of a large part of the Russian Empire.’


Bitovt 1860 (Russ. and 3 parts only); Brunet II, 618; Colas 1224; Lipperheide 133; Obolyaninov 490 (Russ. only, 3 parts of text but mistakenly lists 95 pl.); Rovinskiy, Slovar 845 (#65-159); SK 1374; Sopikov 7535 (Russ. and 3 parts only); cf. Ostroglazov 219 (2nd edition). Not in Gubar.

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Physical Description

Two volumes 4to.: four parts of text in 1 volume, and plates volume (27.5 x 22.5 cm). Text: volume I-III in French, volume IV. in German; title, [2] ll. dedication and introduction, 108 pp., with head- and tail-piece vignettes engraved by Roth; title, introduction leaf, 228 pp., with two more vignettes engraved by Roth; title, introduction leaf, 164 pp., with two more vignettes engraved by Roth; title, ‘Nachricht’ leaf, general introduction I-XII, [4] table of contents, 397-530, [10] index pp., with a headpiece engraved vignette, and tail-piece engraved musical notes. Plates volume with 95 plates engraved by Roth with fine contemporary hand colouring, with Russian, German and French captions, most numbered in the plate, some by hand only.


Modern green calf over contemporary green morocco boards, boards gilt ruled, flat spines with red morocco labels with gilt lettering and gilt decorative ornaments.


Some light marginal browning and spotting, occasional light waterstain, mostly marginal, two leaves with a marginal tear, some plates bound out of order.

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