SARYCHEV, Gavril Andreevich (1763-1831). Puteshestvie Flota Kapitana Sarycheva po Severovostochnoi chasti Sibiri, Ledovitomu moriu, i Vostochnomu okeanu. [The Voyage of Fleet Captain Sarychev to Northeastern Siberia, the Frozen Sea, and the Eastern Ocean.] St. Petersburg: Shnor, 1802.
A rare complete copy of the first edition, finely bound in contemporary Russian red morocco. "One of the fundamental and very rare early books on the Aleutian Islands" (Lada-Mocarski). RBH records only one other complete copy having sold at auction in more than forty years: the Lada-Mocarski copy (sold, PBA, 29 October 2015, lot 572, $138,000). Sarychev's exploration in the North Pacific is the earliest substantial scientific account of the Aleutians and part of the Alaska coast; its plates and maps constitute the most important iconography and cartography of Alaska up to the time. Nearly all the second volume relates to Unalaska, and also includes important linguistic material on the dialects of Russian America. The expedition was sponsored by Catherine II and led by Joseph Billings who had accompanied Captain Cook on his third voyage. The party sailed from Okhotsk in 1787 with Billings piloting Pallas and Sarychev at the helm of The Glory of Russia. In addition to charting the Siberian coastline and regions, Sarychev was charged with asserting Catherine's sovereignty in the area and assuring locals of her protection.
Historically, there has been much confusion about the correct number of plates in a complete copy, and about whether the plates were intended to be bound into an atlas or within the text. Martin Greene conducted extensive research into these issues, and examined nearly every recorded example in institutions in the U.S. and Russia. Greene’s research showed conclusively that a complete set comprises 51 plates, and that these were made available to buyers soon after the text (in 1802-03) together in one volume without a separate title page. All the plates have printed page references, confirming that the publisher’s intention was that buyers would bind these with the text. Very few did. Only two copies are known with the plates bound into the text: the Greene copy, and the copy in the New York Public Library; both are bound in contemporary red morocco, suggesting that both had an important early provenance. Arctic Bib. 37223; Howes S-115 "d"; Lada-Mocarski 57; Obol'ianinov 2406; Sabin 77123; Tourville 3965; Wickersham 6128.
Two volumes, quarto (260 x 196mm). With the errata in both vols. Complete with 51 engraved plates, maps, plans and coastal profiles, by Ivan and Konstantin Cheskii, Khudiakov, I. Telegin and A. Ekimov, and one folding letterpress table (occasional short tears near the folds of some plates, some of these with small, old repairs; occasional minor soiling and spotting in the text). Contemporary Russian red morocco, flat spines gilt in compartments and with green morocco labels and numbering pieces, edges gilt (light soiling, light wear). Provenance: Archie W. Shiels (1878-1974, President of Pacific American Fisheries, historian; bookplate) – William Reese Co.