Skip to main content
Go to accessibility notice
Thank you for your patience as we bring our website back online. Any auctions currently open or opening soon have updated closing times and will run on the schedules posted here.
You may resume bidding and tracking at this time. Bids placed anytime Friday may have not been recorded, so please check your MyBids and update accordingly or contact client services for assistance.


    "What a melancholy contrast between
    former splendour, and present ruin!"

    Robert Johnston. Travels through Part of the Russian Empire and the Country of Poland; along the Southern Shores of the Baltic...Illustrated with Maps and Numerous Coloured Plates. Dedicated, by Permission, to His Royal Highness the Prince Regent. London: Printed for J. J. Stockdale, 1815. First edition. Large quarto (10.75 x 8.75 inches; 272 x 222 mm.). [iii]-vii, [1, Errata], [2, "Directions for Placing the Plates" (verso blank)], [2, Dedication (verso blank)], [i]-xiv, [15]-460 pages. Bound without the half-title. Nineteen (of twenty) hand-colored aquatint plates by Charles J. Canton, T. Cartwright, Henry Edward Dawe, Joshua Gleadah, John Hill, Frederick Christian Lewis, and Charles Williams, after Robert Johnston, two engraved maps ("Map of the North West part of Europe" and folding "Map of the North West part of Russia"), one uncolored wood-engraved plate of agricultural equipment, and one wood-engraving in the text ("Sketch of the Skeleton of a Mammoth" in the Royal Museum at St. Petersburg, listed as Plate XII). Lacking Plate XXII, "East View of Borisoff," which should face page 384.
    Extra-illustrated with three aquatint plates (facing pages 213, 288, and 417), engraved by Joseph Constantine Stadler after James Roberts, from Roberts's Introductory Lessons, with Familiar Examples in Landscape, for the Use of those who are desirous of gaining some knowledge of the Pleasing Art of Painting in Water Colours...(London: 1800). Laid in at front, and most likely once inserted, are two additional plates, "Alexander the Truly Great" (mounted on stub); and "Napoleon Buonaparte, Late Emperor of the French," both engraved by T. Wallis after William Marshall Craig and published by T. Kinnersley, 1814 (from Hewson Clarke's The History of the War, from the Commencement of the French Revolution to the Present Time).
    Contemporary half dark green hard-grain morocco, ruled in blind, over marbled paper-covered boards. Spine ruled in gilt and blind and lettered and dated in gilt with five gilt-decorated raised bands; marbled endpapers; edges sprinkled red. Light rubbing to board edges; spine rubbed at extremities; corners scraped, with some surface loss, and with boards exposed; short slice to leather and small white paint mark in bottom compartment of spine, hinges cracked but holding. Over-opened in a few places. Some foxing and browning, and offsetting both to and from the plates; marginal stains and smudges to several plates. Plate facing page 37 separating at upper gutter, with slight curling, and with three-quarter-inch tear into blank lower portion of plate; plate facing page 108 with two-inch tear from outer margin, repaired on verso (not affecting image); paper repair to outer margin of plate facing page 148 (not affecting image); small area of slight discoloration on plate facing page 378. Folding map facing page 79 closely trimmed at left edge, with a bit of loss. Pages 379/380 and 381/382 separated at lower gutter. A few stray ink marks, and a few pencil marginalia. Overall, a very good, well-used copy.
    Please visit for an extended description of this lot.

    More Information:

    "British scholar journeys from St. Petersburg through Moscow to Smolensk, shortly after Napoleon passed there, June-October 1814. Friendly to Russia, he laments the destruction of Moscow" (Nerhood). Travelling through a landscape devastated by war, Johnston describes the countryside, towns and cities (some in ruin), and people encountered. On page 282, he writes: "Such was the extent and situation of Moscow when Napoleon Buonaparte first beheld it, and such is its present state. What a melancholy contrast between former splendour, and present ruin!"


    The plates include views of Copenhagen, Hamburg, Stralsund, Frauensberg, Tilsit, the Hermitage in St. Petersburg, the "Flying Mountain" in the gardens of Peterhof, Bronnitzi (Bronnitsy), Moscow, the Kremlin, Borodino, Smolensk, and Russian Boatmen at Cronstadt (Kronstadt), Women in the Government of Novogorod, and Lithuanian Jewesses. The Appendix on pages [457]-460 contains Roberts's itinerary, with a "Total, in English Miles" of 3,437.


    "Robert Johnston attended college in Aberdeen, Scotland, before setting out on an extensive European tour during the years 1812 to 1814 which included travel in Great Britain, Denmark, Norway, Sweden, Germany, Russia, Poland, and Ireland. In 1815 Johnston published an account and accompanying sketches documenting his time in Russia. Following his travels, Robert Johnston returned to Jamaica to claim his share of his father's estate...Johnston's land holdings increased in 1818, when he married Catherine Cole Taylor, the only child of local plantation owner John Taylor and his wife, Comfort Ann Hind Taylor...The Johnstons finally relocated to Rhode Island when, in 1833, the imperial British parliament emancipated all the slaves in Jamaica. Fearing for his financial stability and for his family's safety, Robert Johnston thought the relocation was necessary, though the Johnstons continued to visit the island. It was on an 1839 voyage to Jamaica that Catherine (Kate) Johnston, Robert and Catherine's oldest daughter, took ill and died suddenly. She was only fifteen years old. Robert Johnston went into rapid decline after hearing of his daughter's death and died soon after, on August 14, 1839...Johnston's Travels Through Part of the Russian Empire...published by J.J. Stockdale in 1815, provides an even more detailed account of his travels in 1814. In this journal, Johnston related vivid descriptions of the people and places he encountered, along with significant amounts of commentary. Of Russian military officers he met, for example, Johnston observed that their uniforms 'increase the manliness of the figure, at the expense of the care and health of the individual many of the officers are so tightly twisted round the waist, as to appear something similar to a wasp.' Johnston went on to describe the ways in which 'the purity of this fine military system is dreadfully contaminated by the introduction of a set of common horse soldiers,' detailing their activities and his perception of their significance. This account offers a good deal of insight into everyday life in Russia and Poland in 1814, particularly in regard to matters of style and custom readily discernable to an outsider such as Johnston" (The Historical Society of Pennsylvania, Collection 1582, Powell Family Papers, pages 4-5 and 33).

    Abbey, Travel, 15. Catalogue Russica J557. Cross, In the Lands of the Romanovs, F56. Martin Hardie, pages 141-142. Nerhood, To Russia and Return, 164. Prideaux, pages 227 and 341. Tooley 286.

    Auction Info

    Auction Dates
    August, 2015
    5th Wednesday
    Bids + Registered Phone Bidders: 0
    Lot Tracking Activity: N/A
    Page Views: 685

    Buyer's Premium per Lot:
    25% on the first $100,000 (minimum $14), plus 20% of any amount between $100,000 and $1,000,000, plus 12% of any amount over $1,000,000 per lot.

    Sold for: Sign-in or Join (free & quick)

    Heritage membership

    Join Now - It's Free

    1. Past Auction Values (prices, photos, full descriptions, etc.)
    2. Bid online
    3. Free Collector newsletter
    4. Want List with instant e-mail notifications
    5. Reduced auction commissions when you resell your
    Consign now
    • Cash Advances
    • More Bidders
    • Trusted Experts
    • Over 200,000 Satisfied Consignors Since 1976
    Consign to the 2020 June 7 Arms & Armor, Civil War & Militaria Signature Auction - Dallas.

    Learn about consigning with us

    You reach a customer base that is in many ways completely unknown to the major auction houses, and your marketing to this base is as professional as one could hope for. As I continue to wind down my holdings.
    Michael Z.,
    Hawthorne, NY
    View More Testimonials receives more traffic than any other auction house website. (Source:

    Video tutorial

    Getting the most out of search

    Recent auctions

    2019 September 21 - 22 The David and Janice Frent Collection Presidential &  Political Americana, Part VI Signature Auction - Dallas
    2019 September 21 - 22 The David and Janice Frent Collection Presidential & Political Americana, Part VI Signature Auction - Dallas
    REALIZED $648,838