Our Notes & References
“The best and most luxurious edition” of Catherine’s famous ‘Great Instructions’, such described by Count M.A. Korf, then director of the Imperial Library. First published and “signé de la propre main de Sa Majesté Impériale” in 1768; this edition however is the only in several languages and illustrated.
These instructions were “largely compiled and adapted by Catherine personally from the texts of Montesquieu and Beccaria. Although the project was never brought to fruition, the impulse behind it stands as one of the nobler concepts of Catherine’s reign” (Fekula 2013, for a later edition). A major document of the Enlightenment, it condemned torture and capital punishment and endorsed such principles as the equality of all before the law.
The illustration consists of two detailed symbolic engravings, each repeated once, by Roth (d. 1798), an engraver from Nuremberg who mostly worked in Russia.
“The most magnificent and desirable of the more than 40 editions of the Nakaz” (Widener) of “one of the most remarkable political treatises ever compiled and published by a reigning sovereign in modern times” (I. de Madariaga, Russia in the Age of Catherine the Great (1981), p. 151). Some great scholarly publications have taken place among these numerous editions, especially published in St. Petersburg in 1893 (using the French text from this edition) and 1907, as well as the more recent The Nakaz of Catherine the Great: Collected Texts (2010), with a bibliography of the 43 editions, edited by Butler and Tomsinov.
Drage 208; Fekula 2013; Sopikov 6456 (‘best edition’); SK 2151; Widener M., Yale Law School, Lillian Goldman Law Library, on their copy, exhibited in 2012.