Our Notes & References
One of the best illustrated works on Turkestan: a beautiful example of the deluxe version, with a hand-written signed dedication by the author. Rare in such fresh condition.
The Central Asian lands had been for centuries an important trading post for both East and West. Despite this, knowledge about the region remained patchy in Europe. Even when the area was opened up by railway, it was still a 15 day journey from Paris to Tashkent by the quickest route.
In 1898 Hugues Krafft (1853 – 1935), a very wealthy French nobleman, travelled in Russian Turkestan for several months and visited Samarkand, Bukhara, Tashkent, Kokan and other cities. By then Krafft had already visited the European part of Russia, Japan and most of Europe, but nothing could prepare him for the treasures he encountered in Central Asia: ‘charmé par la beauté des hautes montagnes et des florissantes vallées, par la splendeur des monuments du passé, par le coloris extraordinaire des costumes, et par l’attrait d’une population éminemment pittoresque, — autant de sujets qui me procurèrent des impressions plus vives qu’aucune de celles déjà éprouvées dans d’autres pays d’Orient’.
A talented photographer, Krafft recorded everything he saw on the way: the vibrant markets of Bukhara; the ancient monuments of Samarkand; the diverse range of natural phenomena on display in Turkestan; the colourful costumes of different classes and professions; and the local impact of Muslim culture. On his return to Paris Krafft produced an account of the journey lavishly illustrated with 70 high-quality photogravures and 195 heliogravures in phototype, showing the peoples, costumes, traditions, festivals, towns, mosques, madrassas, mountains and valleys of these regions.
No expense was spared in the publication of this work. The photogravures were printed on heavy, high-quality vellum-paper, each protected with a tissue-guard bearing an explanatory caption; the text and the heliogravures were printed on glossy paper with wide margins and the additional watermarks “H. Krafft” and “Le Turkestan Russe”. A number of copies, including this one, were reserved for the Krafft’s close circle and the European aristocracy, including Tsar Nicholas II. These were signed by the author and bound in luxurious and highly decorative full calf gilt bindings.
This particular example contains a handwritten dedication by Krafft, signed and dated December 1901, to a Monsieur Bernard, with the “souvenir sincere de l’auteur”. It is interesting to note the date here: the book was freshly printed as its publication date is 1902.