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Sobranie svedeni o narodah, obitavshih v Sredney Azii v drevnie vremena

[Collection of Information on the Peoples that inhabited Central Asia in Ancient Times].

St Petersburg: Tipografiya Voenno-uchebnykh zavedeniy, 1851 Stock Code: 119926
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First edition, considered as the first scientific attempt at an ancient history of Central Asia. This was Bichurin's last work, bringing together data collected over the previous three decades. Inevitably it is mostly based on Chinese materials, but, as Bichurin states in the preface, he wanted to show the ethnic history of the whole region of Central Asia, which he defined as beginning at the Aral Sea, thus covering the ethnic groups that lived north of China to include Turkestan, Mongolia and Manchuria, together with Khiva, Bukhara, Kokand, and parts of Kazakh steppe. Conspicuously uncommon, WorldCat records a copy at SOAS only.

Nikita Yakovievich Bichurin (1777-1853), better known by his name in religion of Iakinf or Hyacinth, was the first Russian sinologist, and the leading authority on Asia of his day. Originally a tonsured monk, he was named head of the Russian Orthodox Mission to Peking in 1807. He soon became aware of the serious dearth of knowledge about the region which was hindering missionary efforts, and so began an intensive programme of study in Chinese languages and culture. Bichurin immersed himself in the translation of Chinese classics, the compilation of dictionaries of regional languages and dialects, and wide-ranging surveys of Chinese history, religion and geography, including the first detailed descriptions of Beijing; he also created an ethnographic record covering folk customs, regional dress, and popular religious practices. He travelled extensively visiting Mongolia and Tibet, famously being the first European to produce a view of Lhasa. His published studies including Notes about Mongolia, A Description of Tibet, and a History of Tibet and Tsinghai. In 1821, after 14 years in China, Iakinf returned to Russia, where his concentration on geographical studies led to questions concerning his religious motivation. He was stripped of his title of archmandrite, and sent into exile at Valaam Monastery in Karelia, the farthest north outpost of the Orthodox Church, for four years. After his release from the monastery, in 1826, Iakinf became a translator for the Asian Department of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. He continued his studies of China, being instrumental in the establishment of a Chinese language school in Kyakhta, and made two trips to Siberia in 1830 to 1831 and 1835 to 1837. His work as a sinologist was recognised with membership of the Academies of Science of Russia, Germany, and France.

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3 vols. and geographical index bound in 2 vols. octavo (218 x 145 mm). Recent black half morocco and marbled boards to style, title gilt direct to the spine.


Large folding regional map at rear ("Map for the History of Nations that inhabited Central Asia in Ancient Times"), 670 x 1480 mm.


Light browning, some marginal dampstaining, map with a number of splits on the folds, professional repairs verso, but overall very good.


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