Kalmucks in the Caucasus
Travels in the Caucasus and Georgia,
performed in the years 1807 and 1808, by command of the Russian government. Translated from the German by F. Shoberl. London Henry Colburn 1814
First edition 4to, pp. xv, [i], 421, [3, advertisements]; Arabic characters in the text. A very good uncut copy, rebound in blue half calf over marbled boards, spine decorated gilt in compartments. Minor foxing to title page.
Julius von Klaproth, 1783-1835, was invited by Count Potocki to join the Russian Mission to Peking in 1804, but when they reached Urga, Klaproth set off on his own travelling through Mongolia. In 1807 he led an expedition to the Caucasus and Georgia. The material he collected on these two expeditions formed the basis of all his later publications. Klaproth returned to Germany in 1811, and applied unsuccesfully for employment with Napoleon on Elba in 1814. Wilhelm von Humboldt arranged for him to receive the title and salary of Professor for Oriental Languages which allowed him to work on his publications for the rest of his life. He is considered the pioneer of Inner Asian language studies, and one of the most important explorers of his time, but his irascible nature and unjustified attacks on fellow scholars left him isolated, and without pupils to continue his work. In his book Klaproth provides an historical sketch of southern Russia, including the period of the Mongol invasions, and a detailed account of the Kalmucks in the Caucasus. His was interested in the Lama religion as practised by the Mongols which he describes in detail, together with their temples, musical instruments, sacred books, religious festivals, clergy, and marriage and birth customs. Klaproth also comments on the Moravian missionaries at Sarepta and their degeneration into "hypocrisy and avarice", a view that was strongly rejected by his translator F. Shoberl in a footnote. Klaproth's view was influenced by his dislike of the missionary Isaak Jakob Schmidt, whose writings on the history and culture of the peoples of Central Asia he severely critized.