Essai sur le Commerce de Russie. Avec L’Histoire de ses Découvertes. MARBAULT.
Essai sur le Commerce de Russie. Avec L’Histoire de ses Découvertes.
Russian Vodka and Caviar
Amsterdam, n.p., 1777.

Essai sur le Commerce de Russie. Avec L’Histoire de ses Découvertes.

8vo. [16.3 x 9 cm], (2) ff., 299, (1) pp., including half-title and title, and with 1 large folding map [41.2 x 57 cm]. Bound in contemporary mottled calf, edges of covers somewhat abraded, spine with raised bands in seven compartments, with red morocco title label gilt. A handful of leaves with a miniscule spot; repair to (blank) gutter margin of map, no loss. A fresh copy, excellent.

First edition of one of the first French works on commerce in Russia, including a noteworthy early map of Alaska. “Extremely detailed and worth studying” (Lada-Mocarski). Describing Russia’s contemporary situation, government, and both domestic and international trade, the book includes tables of all exports—from caviar to gingerbread—and “comptes simulés”—sample receipts for the budding importer. There are passages describing the textile industry and the fur trade, followed by several pages on that classic Russian libation, “eau-de-vie.” In all its variations, vodka constituted the government’s chief source of revenue: “Les eaux-de-vie sont la partie la plus lucrative & la plus considérable de tout le commerce intérieur de l’empire” (p. 54). The closing chapters of the Essai present France as the ideal trading partner for Russia. At the same time, Marbault recognizes the numerous hazards of doing business in this nation, with its radically different standards and customs, and thus offers his own book as a primer.

The map bound into the front of the book, the “Carte des Découvertes des Russes dans la Mer Orientale, et en Amerique Pour Servir à l’essai, Sur le commerce de Russie,” charts the islands between the Kamchatka Peninsula and Amerique Septentrionale, identifying ‘Ile alakcha’ and the (albeit slightly misplaced) Aleutians.


* Lada-Mocarski 26; Howes M 270; Streeter, VI. 3471; Alexei V. Postnikov, The Mapping of Russian America (1995); Bagrow/Castner, A History of Russian Cartography up to 1800 (1975).

Price: $3,300.00

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