[Autograph Letter Signed Talking about John Biscoe’s Discoveries in the Antarctic in January-February 1831 in German and English]
St. Petersburg: 1832.
St. Petersburg: 16 September 1832. Quarto bifolium (ca. 23x19 cm). 2 pp. Brown ink on wove paper, watermarked “J. Whatman, Turkey Mill, 1828”. Addressed and with remnants of a red seal on verso of the second leaf. Tipped into a period style blue quarter morocco with papered boards and a gilt-lettered title on the spine. Fold marks, paper slightly soiled, several minor tears on the extremities neatly repaired, otherwise a very good letter with interesting content.
Very rare original autograph letter signed by the famous first Russian circumnavigator, writer, geographer and naval administrator Adam Johann von Krusenstern. In the letter, he tells his German correspondent about the latest news “that two of Mess. Enderby’s sealing vessels have made a discovery of land in the Southern Ocean, which could not be approached on account of the ice in Feb. 1831, when it was discovered, but it was traced to an extent of more than 100 miles in an Easterly & Westerly direction, and may be of much greater extent <…> Mess. Enderby are resolved to follow up the discovery, by sending one or two vessels to the place of an earlier period in the ensuing season when they hope to realize a more satisfactory exploration. The geographical situation of this discovery is not yet made public, but I am tending to think it is to the East of the meridian of the Cape of Good Hope and probably far South, perhaps near the 70° of South Latitude…”
The letter evidently refers to the first season of John Biscoe’s expedition to the Antarctic on brig “Tula” (1830-1833), sent by the major English whaling company “Enderby and Sons.” Biscoe crossed the Antarctic circle in January 1831 and discovered a stretch of the Antarctic continent, which he named Enderby Land in honour of his patrons (now a part of the Australian Antarctic Territory). He returned to the region during the next Antarctic summer, discovering Graham Land and several islands adjacent to the modern-day Antarctic Peninsula (nowadays claimed by Argentina, Britain and Chile).
In the letter, written before Biscoe’s expedition returned to England (February 1833), Krusenstern noted that the news of it had not yet been made public and were communicated to him by James Horsburgh, the hydrographer of the British East India Company. Krusenstern and Horsburgh first met during Krusenstern’s trip to England in 1814-1815, where he came to procure instruments, maps and supplies for the Russian voyage on brig “Rurik” of 1815-18 under the command of Otto von Kotzebue, and they later maintained regular correspondence (see more in: Krusenstern, Evert von. Ivan Krusenstern. Moreplavatel, obognuvshiy zemliu. M: Paulsen, 2020).
At the time, Krusenstern was a highly respected and well-connected geographer, cartographer and naval administrator, having gained prominence after the publication of the account of his circumnavigation (“Puteshestviye vokrug Sveta v 1803, 4, 5 i 1806 godakh… na korablyakh Nadezhde i Neve,” SPb., 1809, 3 vols. & atlas), which was translated into several European languages, and the fundamental “Atlas Yuzhnogo Morya” (“Atlas of the South Sea,” 1823 & 1826). He was friends with polar explorer Sir John Ross, acquainted with an explorer of Australia Matthew Flinders, geographer James Rennell, Jose de Espinoza y Tello (a participant of Malaspina expedition), and regularly corresponded with Alexander von Humboldt and Sir Roderick Murchison, among others. Krusenstern was a member of several European learned societies and universities, including the Royal Society and Royal Geographical Society, the Royal Society of Edinburgh, the Institute of France, Dorpat University, Göttingen Royal Society of Sciences, St. Petersburg Academy of Sciences, and others.
It is not surprising that he had access to the latest information about geographical discoveries made by European explorers. As Sir John Ross noted in the biography of Krusenstern, of which he was the editor, “the results of an expedition to the South Sea never escaped his attention, and we may add that his justly acquired fame facilitated in a great measure his researches. The commanders of many expeditions charged with the laying down of distant shores, hastened to communicate to him the result of their adventures and endeavours, even before they were made public by the press” (Memoir of the celebrated admiral Adam John de Krusenstern, the first Russian Circumnavigator. Translated from the German, by his daughter, Madame Charlotte Bernhardi, and edited by Rear-Admiral Sir John Ross. London, 1856, p. 33).
The letter was addressed to “S[eine]r. Hochwohlgeboren, Dem Herrn. [Exzellenz?] von Fuss” – likely the secretary of the Russian Academy of Sciences Paul Heinrich von Fuss (1798-1855). As members of the Russian scientific community, Krusenstern and von Fuss were definitely acquainted; in 1837-1841, they both worked for the Imperial Commission, which tried to ascertain whether the new electric engine invented by Moritz Hermann von Jacobi (1801-1874) could be used to propel sea vessels (https://rusdarpa.ru/?p=297).
Overall an important original letter by a famous Russian circumnavigator showcasing the close connections between European explorers and scientists in the first half of the 19th century, as well as Russian interests in Antarctic exploration.
Excerpts from the letter:
“Ich habe die ehre, Herr [Exzellenz?], Ihnen eine Nachricht angekuendigten werks [… …?] ohne interesse […?] vor [… …?] Zeitung ist jetzt wohl genommen. [… ... …?] ist Horsburg Hydrograph der Ost indischen Compagnie. Sie betreffs der Endeckungen eines Bedeutender Strecke landes um 70sten grade sudlicher Breite. Folgendes in Horsburgh’s Worten:
You will probably have heard that two of Mess. Enderby’s sealing vessels have made a discovery of land in the Southern Ocean, which could not be approached on account of the ice in Feb. 1831, when it was discovered, but it was traced to an extent of more than 100 miles in an Easterly & Westerly direction and may be of much greater extent, as the vessels were driven off by stormy weather before any valid opinion could be formed of the real dimensions of the discovery. These vessels were late in the season and kept as far south as the ice permitted in January & February, but Mess. Enderby are resolved to follow up the discovery, by sending one or two vessels to the place of an earlier period in the ensuing season when they hope to realize a more satisfactory exploration. The geographical situation of this discovery is not yet made public, but I am intended to think it is to the East of the meridian of the Cape of Good Hope and probably far South, perhaps near the 70° of South Latitude. <…>”.
See all items in Rare Books, Manuscripts & Archives
See all items by ANTARCTIC DISCOVERIES, Adam Johann von KRUSENSTERN, Admiral