A Description of Siberia in the Circle of Interests of the Russian and European Diplomatic Elite (Late 17th – Early 18th Centuries)

Tatiana Ilyushechkina

Abstract


The article studies the private and business connections of the owners of A Description of Siberia manuscripts along with historical figures whose names are mentioned in the articles comprising the manuscript or are hidden behind anonymous texts. Among the owners of the manuscript, there is J. G. Sparwenfeld (Sweden), Patrick and Theodore Gordon (Scotland), E. G. von Bergen (Germany), Friedrich I and his son Friedrich III (Electors of Brandenburg), prince D. M. Golitsyn. N. Witsen (Holland) stands out in the list as his role in the literary history of A Description of Siberia is unique. He owned the only known and presently missing Russian manuscript of the original or a copy that was very close to the original historical story On the Conquest of Siberia by Yermak that only two copies of which have survived, i.e. its Dutch translation in the Noord en Oost Tartarye (Amsterdam, 1705) and as an introductory historical narrative from A Description of Siberia. Taking into account the fact that it was N. Witsen, burgomaster of Amsterdam, who compiled and published Noord en Oost Tartarye it may be concluded that it is with this historical figure that one may connect the first publication of the historical story of Yermak’s conquest of Siberia that took place in Holland, and not in Russia, and not in the original language but in its translation into the Dutch language, and long before the latest known version of the manuscript came into existence. It is noteworthy that the earliest and the largest of all the manuscripts that left Russia, the one belonging to Sparwenfeld is almost completely identical to the ones belonging to Golitsyn and the Gordons that never left the country. Likewise, one may connect the separate copy of a Description of Siberia from the library of the Elector of Brandenburg and the German version of the manuscript created by a translator. It only became possible to characterize the peculiar architectonics of the manuscripts after the author studied all the articles of the literary context of A Description of Siberia which transpired after a substantial textological analysis of the copies of A Description of Siberia and the traditional analysis of editorial and typological differences which made the analysis comprehensive and objective.
The article describes the literary environment as a component of the literary history of A Description of Siberia. It is represented by the ones who ordered, compiled and owned the manuscripts and thus determined the choice of articles for their copies thereof, and historical figures mentioned in various articles of the collection. As it transpires, all of them belong to the diplomatic elite of Russia and in some cases to the country’s high officials. The local character of the owners of the manuscripts and the people mentioned in their contents determined the absence of A Description of Siberia from the Russian handwritten tradition.


Keywords


A Description of Siberia; handwritten collections of 17th–18th centuries; E. G. von Bergen; J. G. Sparwenfeld; T. Gordon; D. M. Golitsyn.

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DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.15826/qr.2015.1.081

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