Edinburgh: William Creech, 1788. 4to. xiv, [ii], 442; vi, 554 pp. THIRD EDITION. With 2 large folding maps. Contemporary calf, rebacked, spine with elaborate gilt design and labels, covers lightly rubbed; text is somewhat toned with minor repairs to maps. Generally a very good copy. Item #15131
Third edition of a fascinating narrative vividly detailing Bell’s account of his journey through Russia to Serbia, Persia, and into China on behalf of the Russian tsar. This remarkable journey is of extreme importance as one of the most complete and interesting descriptions of travel to Asia in the late eighteenth century. Of particular importance are Bell’s notes of the Dalai Lama and the Great Wall of China, as well as his astute observations on the cultures, people, customs, and government in China.
Volume II also contains the lengthy journal of Mr. Lorenz de Lange, a Swedish engineer and Russian diplomat stationed at the Court of Peking from 1721-1722, which Bell calls a “curious and authentic piece” (223). Positioned in China at the request of Peter the Great, de Lange saw to it that trade and commerce negotiations went in Russia’s favor. The journal provides a unique perspective on relations between Russia and China and the problems that the two countries faced over borders, trade, and commerce. His reports on the border skirmishes between Siberia, Mongolia, and China were invaluable to the Russian empire and had a profound affect on Russian foreign policy.
Bell (1691-1780), a Scottish physician and traveler, became the medical attendant to Russian diplomat Artemy Petrovich Volynsky in 1714 and as a result accompanied him on a series of expeditions to Asia beginning in 1715 on behalf of the Russian Tsar. Little is known of his education and career other than his penchant for travel. Advised by William Robertson (1721-1793), the acclaimed Scottish historian and writer, to model his account in the style of Gulliver’s Travels, this became Bell’s only published work. His third and final voyage to Constantinople was a joint effort between Russia and Great Britain, and Bell’s last diplomatic mission.