Thick 8vo [20 x 12 cm], (4), cxlviii, 1000 pp., (1) folding plate of tables. Bound in contemporary half calf and speckled paper over boards, gilt paneled spine and morocco title label, corners a little worn, some toning and foxing throughout, very good.
Very rare first edition of this encyclopedia of Catherine the Great’s Russia published the year of her death by a German professor at Moscow University intent on advertising the country’s cultural and educational advances. This A-Z encyclopedia of the physical and social geography of the Russian Empire is one of the earliest foreign-language reference works on the country we have seen.
Heym’s previous publications were Russian dictionaries and grammars, and he begins the present work with an explanation of his own system of transliteration from the Cyrillic alphabet. This is followed by the encyclopedia proper, which over the course of 1000 pages covers the cities, towns and administrative districts of Russia, its rivers and mountains, industries, trade routes and agricultural products, cultural institutions, schools, and places of worship. In his introduction, Heym explains that he initially planned to translate a Russian encyclopedia into German, but found the work in question so riddled with errors that he began compiling material from a wide range of sources for an original work.
Heym (1759-1821) moved to Moscow in 1779 and initially taught German at Moscow University before becoming professor of history, statistics and geography and, eventually, rector of the university. His academic interests are reflected in the present work, which offers a colorful mix of population statistics, meticulous accounts of tuition fees, institutional endowments and the costs of running urban poorhouses alongside discursions on climate, agricultural methods and the quality of the local drinking water. Heym’s pride in the educational institutions of his adopted Moscow is expressed in a detailed breakdown of the university’s history, faculties and student population and other teaching institutions (“The anatomical theater is very roomy and has a particularly rich collection of miscarriages of all sorts,” p.506), while he remains entirely silent on the subject of the more senior and prestigious university of St Petersburg.
Heym compiled the work shortly after the Russo-Turkish War of 1787-1792 which added significant chunks of territory to Russia in today’s southern Ukraine. He mentions the “newly founded” town of Nicolayev (founded in 1789), but not Odessa, which was founded in 1794.
Heym’s other works include Dictionnaire portatif ou dictionnaire Russe-François-Allemand (Riga and Leipzig, 1805). Deutsch-Russisches … Wörterbuch (Riga, 1795-1800), Russische Sprachlehre für Deutsche (Riga, 1804) and Livre de lecture russe (Riga, 1805)
* SWB record, Bayrische Staatsbibliothek record, Hollis record; Catalogue des Russica H 792.