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HOLMAN, James.

Travels through Russia, Siberia, Poland, Austria, Saxony, Prussia, Hanover, &c. &c.

Undertaken during the Years 1822, 1823, and, 1824, while suffering from Total Blindness, and comprising an Account of the Author being conducted a State Prisoner from the Eastern Parts of Siberia. Second Edition.

Published: London: Geo.. B. Whittaker, 1825

Stock code: 65611

Price: £1,250

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Second edition in the same year as the first. In 1798, Holman, aged just 12, joined the Navy as a first class volunteer, and served until 1810, when he was invalided out with severe rheumatism, shortly afterwards becoming totally blind. He was made a naval knight of Windsor, but found the regime too restrictive and “managed to convince the authorities that the terms of the endowment allowed leave of absence both for study (he attended lectures of the University of Edinburgh from 1813 to 1818) and for travel to recruit his health”(ODNB). Over the next 20 years or so, embarked on the series of travels – eventually more or less completing a circuit of the globe “an achievement he resolved on when he first went to sea” – that were the origin of his soubriquet, ‘The Blind Traveller.’ The present account is that of his trip to Russia in 1822-4. Arriving in St. Petersburg “he proceeded to Moscow and Novgorod, and then, without official permission and with no knowledge of the language, across Siberia to Irkutsk.” (Howgego) Here he was arrested as a spy, and “escorted to Moscow in chains and held for eighteen months” before he was accompanied to the Polish border to make his way back to England. His accounts were were attacked at the time as the products of imagination rather than of experience, and Holman’s being blind may have seemed to lend substance to the accusations. However, one who knew him well described his memory as “indelible,” and he did record aides mémoires for himself using the noctograph, a device with which he is portrayed in the frontispiece. An excellent copy of an uncommon account of Russia by the man described in a recent biography as ‘the world’s greatest traveller.’

Octavo (213 132 mm) Contemporary sage green, straight-grained morocco by Bentley of Poland Street, red morocco label, flat bands gilt tooled, compartments with repeated arabesque design in blind, French fillet gilt panels to the boards, small floral corner-tools, foliate edge-roll, marbled edges and endpapers. Volume I with stipple-engraved portrait frontispiece, volume II with steel-engraved frontispiece, and 4 extremely lively lithographic plates after Gauci Jnr to each. Spine slightly sunned, tail-cap repaired, short split to tail of the upper joint, light toning, mild off-set from the plates, a very good copy.

Bibliography: Howgego, II, H31; Roberts, A Sense of the World (2009).

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