DROUVILLE, Gaspard; Alexandre Orlovsky (artist).

Voyage en Perse pendant les années 1812 et 1813


Voyage en Perse pendant les années 1812 et 1813
contenant des détails peu connus sur les moeurs, usages, coutumes et cérémonies religieuses des Persans; ainsi que sur leur état militaire, tant ancien qu’actuel, et généralement sur tout ce qui concerne les forces régulières et irrégulières de cet empire.
Imprimé chez Pulchart à ses frais, à Paris chez Firmin Didot, Saint Pétersbourg, 1819.

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First edition of this extensive account of Persia, which provided European and Russian policy makers with practical cultural and military knowledge. A superb example, finely bound for and presented to Victor-Emmanuel I (1759-1824), Duke of Savoy and King of Sardinia; later acquired by the great bibliophile and collector of Islamic art Charles Kettaneh.

For a long time Persia had been a major player in Central Asia and the focus of Russian and European politics in the region. Interest in Persia rose further following yet another Russo-Persian War (1804–13), which culminated with the Treaty of Gulistan confirming the inclusion of modern day Azerbaijan, Daghestan and Eastern Georgia into the Russian Empire. After this humiliating defeat the Persian ruler Abbas Mirza started to seek closer ties with Europe and embarked on reforming and westernising his military forces with extensive assistance from Britain.

Even though a number of historic accounts of Persia had been published before, they hardly provided Europeans and Russians with the much needed practical up-to-date information. This gap was to be filled by a Frenchman and soldier of fortune, Gaspard Drouville (1783-1856), who spent three years in Persia in the service of the Russian Tsar.

Initially interested in the organisation of the Persian army and recent military reforms, Drouville thought it was necessary to make the work more appealing to the general reader, and therefore expanded it with descriptions of Persian social classes and ranks, customs, traditions and everyday life.
The text is accompanied by sixty beautiful hand-coloured plates gathered in an atlas together with a map showing new borders established after the Treaty of Gulistan. Very unusually, the atlas combines lithographed and engraved plates, with most of the illustrations after the famed Polish artist Alexander Orlowski (also Orlovsky; 1777–1832), who was responsible for introducing lithography to Russia in 1816 (Erik Gollerbakh, Istoriya graviury i litografii v Rossii, p.97).

Complete with an exceptionally rare first issue of the atlas absent from major bibliographies and public holdings.

The atlas has a complex publication history, which is not registered in the main bibliographies. Through our own research we have established that there were at least three issues of the first edition printed in 1819–20. Our 4to. issue of the atlas was shortly followed by second and third issues published in folio format with varying titles: ‘Atlas ou Collection de 35 Dessins lithographiés par A. Orlowskj […]. Second tirage. Prix 300 Rbl. Décembre 1819″ and “Ou Collection De 40 Dessins lithographiés par A. Orlowskj […]. Troisième Tirage. Prix 350 Rbl. 1820’.

Most bibliographies do not distinguish between these different issues, simply stating “first edition”. They collate 62 plates, which corresponds to the index of the second and third issues, as opposed to the 61 in ours. In these later folio issues illustrations 12 and 13, which appear as two separate plates in our copy, are merged into one design, though separate numbering is preserved in the index. A new plate titled ‘Un Archer, Cavalier persian’ is added under №62.
The major difference between the first and later issues is the number of engraved plates – these were gradually substituted with lithographs in later issues and the titles of the atlases were updated accordingly.

A very rare work. It is known that the print run of the second and third impressions of the atlas was around 150 copies, with some copies reserved for subscribers. It is almost certain that only a handful of copies of the first issue were printed, as it is unregistered in the main bibliographies and absent from public libraries. Rovinskiy briefly mentions the first issue of the atlas in the bibliography Podrobniy slovar russkikh graverov, but his library only contained a third edition of the work.
Unlike the subsequent issues, the title page of our atlas does not list a sale price, indicating that it was possibly intended solely for presentation, or might have been a trial proof.

We have found ten copies of the first edition in public libraries, including five libraries in the USA, the Berlin State library, the British Library and the Bibliotheque Nationale. However, all of them hold atlases only from the third issue or later. Apparently there are no copies of the first edition in the Library of Congress, the Harvard University library or the Russian State library; the Russian National library seems to have only the first text volume.
We could not trace any complete copy selling at auction in past half-century.

A subsequent edition, now much more common, was published in 1825 in Paris to feed the demand for this high-quality work.

With great provenance: this delightful example was bound for Victor Emmanuel I, the second son of King Victor Amadeus III of Sardinia and Maria Antonia Ferdinanda of Spain. He participated in the First Coalition against Revolutionary France (1792–97). All his dominions save Sardinia were occupied by the French during 1802–14. His kingdom was later restored, with the addition of Genoa, by the Final Act of the Congress of Vienna (June 9, 1815), but he abdicated in 1821 in favour of his brother, Charles Felix.
More recently the copy belonged to Charles Kettaneh (1904-85), a Lebanese businessman who lived in Iran, where he became a close friend of André Godard, a great archaeologist and founder of the National Museum of Lebanon. A philanthropist, Kettaneh developed his taste for history, travel and as a natural consequence travel books on the Middle East. He managed to put together an excellent collection, focused and relatively small (less than 150 volumes) but of the highest quality thanks especially to the scarcity of the chosen works.


First edition. Two volumes bound in one and atlas, quarto (26.8 x 21.2 cm). Half-title, title, XXXVI, [2], 168, [2]pp.; Half-title, title, 224, [2]pp. Atlas: title, complete as per index with double-page map, frontispiece portrait and 59 plates, including 13 double and 3 folding, engraved or lithograph, mostly after Orlowski and Swébach by Beggrow, Shelkovnikov and others, all in contemporary hand colour, plates printed on at least three sorts of English paper, watermarks ‘Whatman’ dated 1817 and 1818; a heraldic badge of the Prince of Wales’s three feathers, 1818; heavier paper watermarked “G.J.F.”; narrow light water stain to inner margin in the last quire of text volume, occasional light spotting, heavier to titles, some occasional browning, plate 18 cut out and pasted on contemporary paper of the same sort, a few small repairs.
Contemporary green crushed sheep, gilt ornamental borders and turn-in, gilt lettering ‘à Sa Majesté le Roi de Sardaigne et de Piémont’ to upper boards, spine decorated and lettered in gilt, pink endpapers, all edges gilt; slightly rubbed, some scratches to boards.

Provenance: Victor Emmanuel I of Sardinia (binding, ex-libris with a crown and motto “In ardua fidelis” to upper pastedowns); Charles Kettaneh (engraved exlibris to upper fly leaves).


Bobins 1087 (atlas from second issue with 62 plates); Brunet II 840 (incorrect description of atlas after Querard); Chahine 1411; Chertkov “Vseobshchaya biblioteka Rossii” 3030 (atlas not dated, 30 plates in text + atlas with 8 pp. of text and 41 plates after Orlowski and Shvebakh); Colas I 899 (after Brunet); Ghani (p. 107, second edition only); Gubar 840, 2926 – 2930 (copy of the first edition without atlas; 5 loose plates from different editions); Hiler, p.249 (Atlas ou collection de 43 costumes persanes, militaires et civil, 3 tirage, 1823, 36 plates only); Lipperheide 1465 (second edition only); Querard II p. 595 (dating the work 1821, with 62 plates, error in title “par Oslowsky”); Solovev, cat. 105, No132 (issue of atlas not specified, 150 rub); Rovinskiy pp. 489 – 493 (No57 – 97, mentions first issue with 59 pl. and a map but only had 3rd Paris edition); Wilson p. 62 (2); Not in Blackmer.


Stock ID: 94375