CUSTINE, Astolphe-Louis-Léonard, marquis de.
CUSTINE, Astolphe-Louis-Léonard, marquis de. The Empire of the Czar; or, Observations on the social, political, and religious State of Prospects of Russia, made during a Journey through that Empire … Translated from the French …
London: Printed for Longman, Brown, Green, and Longmans …  1843.
3 vols, large 12mo (196 × 120 mm), pp. xxviii, 311, [1]; vii, [1], 349, [1], 2 (advertisements); viii, 363, [1]; with a 32-page publisher’s catalogue (dated July 1843) at the end of vol. I; the odd insignificant mark, but withal a very good copy, uncut in the original publisher’s blind-stamped cloth, slightly skewed, a few marks to the boards, spines lightly sunned, but the gilt lettering still bright; engraved Fothergill bookplate.
First edition in English of La Russie en 1839 (Paris, 1843), ‘one of the most fascinating and most instructive volumes of Russian impressions by a foreigner’ (Simon Sebag Montefiore). A difficult book to find in anything approaching reasonable condition, if at all.

‘Custine’s 1839 trip to Russia was spurred by the triumph of Tocqueville’s De la démocratie en Amérique [1835–40], where democracy is represented as the ineluctable political evolution of advance societies. Custine may have hoped that Russia was the proof that enlightened despotism was an equally viable system … What Custine discovered, or believed he had discovered in Russia, turned out to be of a totally different nature from what he had expected to find: a country dominated by fear of a tyrannical power served by an implacable bureaucracy, in other words a police state. Reluctant at first to publish his impressions, he did so after four years of discreet work. The success of the book was considerable. The 3000 copies of the first printing sold out. Four pirate editions came out in Brussels before the second edition appeared in Paris. The first English edition, entitled The Empire of the Czar, was issued in the same year, as was the first German edition; both were reprinted the following year. In Russia, Custine’s book was banned at once …’ (Vincent Giroud, St Petersburg: a Portrait of a Great City (Beinecke Library, 2003), p. 108).

Cat. Russica C-1415; Cross G66 (‘a damning critique of Nicholas I and his Russia. The English translation was republished several times during the Crimean War; retranslated as Journey for our time during the Cold War’); Nerhood 215 (1951 translation, by Phyllis Penn Kohler). For the first edition, see En Français dans le texte 262 (‘fit l’effet d’une bombe’).

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