A unique album of historical importance, entirely in manuscript, in a signed Russian presentation binding. Of exceptional dimensions and in fresh condition, from the library of Tsar Alexander II.
On 10 March 1800, the very year when the album was executed, the Artillery and Engineering Gentry Cadet Corps (Artilleriyskiy i Inzhenerniy Shliakhetskiy Korpus) was renamed into the Second Cadet Corps by the order of Tsar Paul I. It is therefore highly probable, considering its importance and quality, that the present work was presented by the cadets to the Tsar. It contains 95 charts of artillery arms, mainly canons and related equipment, skillfully executed in watercolours and signed by the Cadets, each page bearing a different signature. The arms drawn in detail are apparently of the standard of the year 1797 developed for the Gatchina artillery troops, which were under the direct command of Paul I. This emphasises the historical importance of the present drawings in the military history of the Russian Empire, since “even the State Archive of the Military and Historical Museum of Artillery in St. Petersburg doesn’t have charts of the arms of the 1797 standard” (PhD thesis by Yurkevich E.I., 2003, p.22).
Our research could also bring to light another, similar album, kept in the Manuscripts department of the National Library of Russia (No139). Their version however differs from ours not only by the quantity of drawings (124 in the NLR), but also by the date – one year later, 1801 – and very interestingly by the Tsar’s monogram on the title page: the NLR album shows the initials of the new Tsar, Alexander I, just enthroned after the assassination of his father Paul in March 1801. Perhaps the gift to Paul needed to be updated and adapted to the new ruler?
Large landscape folio (50 x 65.5 cm). Title, , 95 watercolours, each signed in ink. Contemporary red morocco by Reeb, St. Petersburg, large green morocco label with gilt lettering to upper cover, gilt border to boards, flat spine richly tooled in gold; slightly rubbed, corners a bit bumped. Kept in a modern red morocco-backed box with transparent upper cover.
Большой фолиант пейзажного формата (50 x 65.5 cм). Титул, , 95 акварелей, каждая с подписью чернилами.
Переплет: красный марокен того времени работы Риба в Санкт-Петербурге, большая этикетка из зеленого марокена с золотым тиснением на верхней крышке, золоченая кайма на крышках, плоский корешок декорированный золотом; переплет слегка потерт. Хранится в современной коробке из красного марокена с прозрачной верхней крышкой.
Provenance: Aleksandr Nikolayevitch [Alexander II] (bookplate on front pastedown); European private collection.
Stock ID: 86225