An Account of Russia as it was in the Year 1710WHITWORTH, Charles, Lord
London: Strawberry Hill. 1758.
First edition. Limited to 700 copies, 600 sold for the benefit of the poor of Twickenham. 8vo in 4s. pp. xxiv, 158,  errata,  blank. Tan half calf , marbled boards. Raised bands, six compartments. Red leather label in second compartment with title in gilt. Author's name in gilt direct to third compartment. Recently, and very smartly, rebacked. Stamp of Hatchards, 187 Piccadilly on verso of ffep (Hatchards moved to no. 187 in 1820). Title page has engraving of Strawberry Hill. Advertisement (Introduction) by Horace Walpole. The text block is excellent, very clean. A fine copy.
In his introductory advertisement, Horace Walpole writes that this “short but curious account of the Russian Empire, as it began to emerge from barbarism in the year 1710, cannot but be acceptable to the public from the curiosity of the subject, and from the merit of the performance”. Whitworth was a scholar and professional diplomat, beginning his career in Germany. In 1704, he was appointed Envoy Extraordinary to the Court of St Petersburg. This was a sensitive time, partly as the Russians were engaged in the Great Northern War against the Swedish Empire, but also because of a diplomatic incident in London when the Emperor’s envoy was arrested in the street by two bailiffs for non payment of debts. Walpole makes much of the contrast between high-handed Imperial absolutism and the laws and liberties of the English tradesman. Russia was strange and unknown at this time (when isn’t it?) and Whitworth’s Account did much to explain the country and shape British attitudes to it during the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries. Whitworth’s study was written in 1710 and the manuscript ended up in the hands of the poet (and Twickenham neighbour of Walpole) Richard Owen Cambridge who had bought it, with a collection of other papers on Russian history and affairs, from M. Zolman, the secretary to the (then, highly celebrated) diplomat Stephen Poyntz. Cambridge appears to have allowed Walpole access to this library. This explains the forty eight year gap between composition and publication.