Paris: Gide, 1843. First French Edition. Octavo (ca. 22 x14cm), 3 vols. lviii, 570, ; 558, ; 614, . With a folding engraved map and 14 folding tables. Period brown quarter sheep with marbled papered boards, and gilt lettered names of the library it belonged to “Cercle des Phocéens” on the bottoms of the spines. Paper label of “Librairie Barjolle, Paris” on the front pastedown endpaper of vol. 1. Bindings with mild wear on extremities, corners mildly bumped, scattered light foxing but overall a very good set.
First edition of this scarce work by Prussian geographer, naturalist and explorer Alexander von Humboldt, based on his travel to Siberia and Central Asia in April-November 1829. Organized after a special invitation by the Russian Tsar Nicolas I, the expedition took Humboldt and his companions to the Ural Mountains, Tobolsk, the Altai Mountains and up the Irtysh River as far as the Russian-Chinese border near Lake Zaysan, with the return travel via Omsk, Chelyabinsk and Astrakhan. It was this travel and resulted in Humboldt coining the term “Central Asia” defining the vast land mass in the centre of the Eurasian continent. “The most important results of this extensive tour were the completion of meteorological data for the isothermal world map, a theory of the orographic configuration of the central Asiatic mountain systems and tablelands, and the discovery of diamonds in the gold mines of the Urals. His request to the Russian government in 1829 led to the establishment of a line of magnetic and meteorological stations across northern Asia and a similar appeal to the duke of Sussex who, at the time, (1836), was president of the Royal Society, secured for the undertaking the wide basis of the British dominions. Thus, Humboldt established the forerunner of modern scientific cooperation between the nations of the world” (Profile of Baron Alexander von Humboldt/ Special Collections & Archive of the Library of Humboldt State University, online).
This book in not a travel account (which was written by Humboldt’s companion Gustave Rose), but a scientific essay on Central Asia’s orography and climatology. The text of the book was originally written by Humboldt in French, and comprises the present edition; it was translated into German by a meteorologist Wilhelm Mahlmann and published in 1844 (Untersuchungen über die Gebirgsketten und die vergleichende Klimatologie. Berlin, 1844, in 2 vols. 3 parts). The first two volumes are dedicated to Central Asia’s geology and orography, with frequent comparisons to the Alps and the American Cordilleras, and the third volume describes Asiatic climatology and terrestrial magnetism. The text is supplemented with fourteen tables of meteorological observations and an excellent folding engraved map of Central Asia, covering the region from the eastern shores of the Caspian Sea on the west to the source of the Amur River on the east, from the central Ural Mountains in the north to the Himalayas in the south. This well-preserved copy derives from the library of a Marseille cultural society Cercle des Phocéens (est. In 1787) and is listed in the library catalogue under no. 68-70 (Catalogue de la Bibliothéque/ Cercle des Phocéens. Marseille, 1874, p. 149).
Cordier BS 2806, Yakushi H454A, Perret 2299.
Price: $1,250.00 USD