On December 15, 2021, the 200th anniversary of the French Geographical Society was celebrated at the Sorbonne Grand Amphitheater. The Scientific Library of the Russian Geographical Society, congratulating its colleagues from France on the anniversary, presented several Parisian publications of the early 19th century, demonstrating mutual interest and the close connection of researchers, travelers, scientists and artists of the two countries characteristic of that time. The temporary book exhibition became part of the exhibition from the funds of the Russian Geographical Society in the Small Hall of the Headquarters in St. Petersburg.
At the origins of the French Geographical Society were such outstanding scientists as Pierre-Simon Laplace, Alexander von Humboldt, Georges Leopold de Cuvier, Joseph Louis Gay-Lussac. Famous Russians were also members of the first association of geographers in world history. The French model of the organization served as a model for the creation of other national geographical societies.
The exhibition will run until February 15, 2022. Admission by appointment. Phone for inquiries: +7 (812) 315-83-63.
"A picturesque description of a voyage around the world ..."
Parisian publication of 1822, directly associated with one of the first Russian members of the French Geographical Society Count Nikolai Rumyantsev. The expedition on the brig "Rurik" funded by him, the commander of which was the Russian officer Otto von Kotzebue, was accompanied by the twenty-year-old artist Louis Choris. He later recalled this trip around the world, which lasted for three years: "All objects that struck my youthful imagination and my eyes were collected and painted by me, sometimes at a leisurely pace allowed by a long stay, sometimes with the speed necessary due to a short visit."
The artist's watercolor drawings based on field sketches formed the basis of the most beautiful publication, which immediately gained worldwide fame. Among its subscribers were the Russian Emperor Alexander I, the Minister of Public Education Alexander Golitsyn, the kings of France and Prussia, Alexander Dumas, and many others. It is surprising that this work was never published in Russia.
Some watercolors by one of the first members of the French Geographical Society Louis Choris, apparently inspired Louis-Auguste de Sainson, who not only accompanied the French navigator, oceanographer Jules Dumont d’Urville on one of his expeditions, but also became an illustrator of his 1834 book “Voyage Around the World". A scientist and a polymath, one of the discoverers of the coast of Antarctica, a member of the French Geographical Society, almost in the form of a novel, tells about his three round-the-world voyages, supplementing his narrative with extracts from the writings of other famous travelers, including Magellan, Cook, Kruzenshtern, Kotzebue, and Lütke.
Vitaly Sychev, an expert of the Intergovernmental Oceanographic Commission of UNESCO and a member of the Russian Geographical Society, in his lecture dedicated to the 200th anniversary of the French Geographical Society, tells about the first Russian members of the oldest geographical society in the world and unique editions of the book collection of the Scientific Library of the Russian Geographical Society.
Traveling around Russia
Specializing in natural science and geography, de Sainson, together with Auguste Raffet, takes part in the Franco-Russian scientific expedition to the south of Russia under the leadership of Anatoly Demidov. Having enlisted the support of Nicholas I, Demidov, in the interests of the development of mining, gathers topographers, foremen, chemists, paleontologists, doctors to study the Crimea and the Donets Basin, and also attracts the chief mining engineer and professor at the Paris Mining School Frederic Le Play. Assessing the artist, collector, patron of fine arts and sciences, Demidov wrote: "Raffet is active and knows how to take advantage of the slightest opportunity on the road: his hand is always ready, his pencil is always sharpened; he only needs an excuse and he will sketch everything he meets on the way."
The richly illustrated four-volume edition of "Travels in Southern Russia, and the Crimea; through Hungary, Wallachia, and Moldavia, during the year 1837" with the results of the expedition's work was published in Paris in 1842. For the album for the book, Raffet made a series of 64 lithographs. Note that the copy of the Russian Geographical Society has a portrait of Anatoly Demidov created in his lifetime from this album with his autograph.
A gold medal from the Paris Geographical Society for his work in Russia after the publication of the 1845 book " Travels in the Steppes of the Caspian Sea: The Crimea, the Caucasus, &c." was received by Xavier Hommaire de Hell, a French geologist and traveler. The purpose of his trip was geological exploration, ethnography and the study of ancient monuments that were found at the bottom of the Black, Azov and Caspian Seas. The author himself formulated his task as follows: "When I left Constantinople for Odessa my principal object was to investigate the geology of the Crimea and of New Russia, and to arrive by positive observations at the solution of the great question of the rupture of the Bosphorus. Having once entered on this pursuit, I was soon led beyond the limits of the plan I had marked out for myself, and found it incumbent on me to examine all the vast regions that extend between the Danube and the Caspian Sea to the foot of the northern slope of the Caucasus. I spent, therefore, nearly five years in Southern Russia, traversing the country in all directions, exploring the course of rivers and streams on foot or on horseback, and visiting all the Russian coasts of the Black Sea, the Sea of Azof and the Caspian". The expedition was financed by the Novorossiysk Governor-General Count Mikhail Vorontsov.
The exhibition also includes an earlier book of a similar subject "Travels to Southern Russia and mainly to the Caucasus regions" by Jean Francois Gamba. In 1817, on behalf of the French Prime Minister Armand Emmanuel du Plessis, Duke of Richelieu, Gamba visited Odessa, Nikolaev, Kherson, Taganrog, Nakhichevan, Novocherkassk, Dubovka, Astrakhan, German, Tatar and Greek colonies, Mozdok, Taman, Kerch, Simferopol. The results of his explorations were well received by both the French and Russian governments.
Finally, paying tribute to the first association of geographers in world history, the Scientific Library of the Russian Geographical Society proudly presents several precious copies of the Bulletins of the French Geographical Society (Bulletin de la Societe de Géographie) from the 1820s from its collection.
The books will be on display from December 15, 2021 to February 15, 2022, and are available at the Library of the Russian Geographical Society in St. Petersburg from February 17, 2022. Admission by appointment, opening hours: Monday to Thursday, from 10:00 to 18:00, Friday from 10:00 to 16:30. Phone for inquiries: +7 (812) 315-83-63.