A censored work - in amazing condition


Beskrifning om Rysslands Belägenhet/ Gräntzor/ Landskaper/ Städer/ Styrelse/ Macht/ Plägseder och andra Beskaffenheter nu för tijden

Publication: Olao Enaeo, Stockholm, 1706.

[WICHSELL, Jöran], Beskrifning om Rysslands Belägenhet/ Gräntzor/ Landskaper/ Städer/ Styrelse/ Macht/ Plägseder och andra Beskaffenheter nu för tijden

An exceptionnal example, uncut, unopened and unbound, of a banned and later destroyed account of Peter the Great’s Russia. First edition, rare.

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Our Notes & References

First edition of this censored and withdrawn Swedish description of Russia during the Great Northern War (1700-21), Peter the Great’s famous military achievement.

In a superb condition, as new, straight off the press: unopened and unbound, the quires being folded and loose. Surprisingly fresh.

This only literary work by Jöran Wichsell, formerly a secretary to Swedish statesman Magnus Gabriel de la Gardie, describes Russia and its location, borders, government, customs and trade, giving individual descriptions of a vast number of cities with their history, landscapes and commercial importance, including Moscow with Kremlin, Kyiv and Novgorod among others. In the preface, Wichsell writes that he might continue this work and write more about “foreign forms of government if the present publication succeeds” (Bring, our translation here and below).

Published in 1706, in the midst of the war between Sweden and Russia, the book was however censored and seized the same year for its pro-Russian views. According to Samuel E. Bring, while most Swedish newspapers spread information about the atrocities of the Russian army, Wichsell in his book created an extremely complimentary image of the tsar Peter the Great as an enlightened and wise reformer and the leader of a powerful army. In April 1713, when the Swedish army was significantly shattered after the battle of Poltava (1709), all 2000 copies of the seized edition were handed to the National Archive where most of them seemed to be destroyed by the end of the century. “During the second half of the 18th century, descriptions of Russia were generally considered to be very rare” (Bring).

Wichsell includes a small bibliography at the end, mentioning Olearius’ major travel account, as well as Ludolf’s groundbreaking ‘Grammatica’. He most probably compiled his own work from several other accounts of Russia, including two contemporary German books Moszkowitische Staat unserer Zeit (1702) and Christian Stieff’s Relation von dem gegenwärtigen Zustande des moscowitischen Reichs (1706).

Scarce: apparently no complete copy offered at auction, but we could trace two other copies passing through the market during the last decades. Worldcat locates only two copies in the US (U. of Minnesota, and of Pennsylvania), to which we can add a third in Harvard. A few copies in Europe (Staatsbibliothek zu Berlin, University of London Senate House Library and a few libraries in Sweden), to which we can add three copies in Russia (2 at RGB in Moscow and one at RNB in St. Petersburg).


Cat. Russica W-708 (as Wixell); Samuel E. Bring, “En Censurerad Svensk Rysslands-beskrifning från det stora Nordiska Krigets Tid”, Nordisk tidskrift för bok- och biblioteksväsen, Vol. 6, 1919.

Item number



Physical Description

Octavo (ca. 20 x 13 cm). Title, [2] and 92 pp.


Loose folded quires as issued, unbound.


Uncut, minimally creased at extremities, a couple of minor light stains, otherwise exceptionally fresh.

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