A Tour Performed in the Years 1795-6 Through the Taurida, or Crimea...
London: T. Cadell Jun. 1802.
London: T. Cadell Jun. 1802. First edition. Contemporary calf, rebacked and recornered to style with gilt to spine. All edges speckled red. Marbled endpapers. Measuring 265 x 205mm and collating complete including three plates, two folding maps, and final leaf with errata and adverts: xxiv, 446, . A pleasing, sturdy copy with just a touch of bowing to the front board. Several small, amateur tape repairs reinforcing minor splits along map folds. Internally clean and unmarked. OCLC reports 12 copies at U.S. institutions.
The former director of the Imperial Convent for the Education of the Female Nobility of Russia, Maria Guthrie became a traveler and travel writer when she left her husband and children "in St. Petersburg, and she and one of her female servants, accompanied by the German naturalist Peter Simon Pallas" sojourned into Crimea (Sweet). Wanting to connect with her husband, scholar Matthew Guthrie, "she recorded her observations along the way in letters to demonstrate her participation in the antiquarian, historical, botanical, and ethnological investigations in which he also delighted. In fact, she wrote in the full knowledge that her letters would form the basis for a jointly produced travel narrative, building on a tour that Matthew had made to the Crimea some years earlier" (University of Wolverhampton).
Although Maria died in 1800, she and Matthew did complete the present work, and it was published posthumously featuring Maria as its key author. This may have been a decision based in affection; it may also have been swayed by marketing. During a period when "the rise of the woman travel writer...promoted debate and controversy amongst British reviews and papers about women's roles," it could be a selling point for some readers (Blue Stocking UK). As Mary Astell pointed out in her preface to Lady Mary Wortley Montagu's Letters, "the world should see, to how much better purpose the Ladies travel than their Lords; and that, whilst it is surfeited with Male-Travels, all in the same tone and stuft with the same trifles; a lady has the skill to strike out a new path, and to embellish a worn-out subject." In this sense, Maria's voice, her observations on the experience of travel, on engaging in the sciences, in observing politics and conflict brought a fresh and exciting perspective to a travel narrative that introduced all readers to this Eastern region -- but which also allowed a market of women to imagine themselves doing the same. (Item #5885)