Presentation copy of Golovnin's rare account of his circumnavigation on the sloop Kamchatka, incorporating one of the earliest plans of Honolulu.
By GOLOVNIN, Vasili Mikhailovich , 1822

[Title in cyrillic: Voyage around the world by order of His Majesty, the Emperor, on naval sloop Kamchatka in 1817, 1818, and 1819, by Fleet Captain Golovnin].

Travel & Voyages
  • Author: GOLOVNIN, Vasili Mikhailovich
  • Publication place: St. Petersburg
  • Publisher: Naval Printing Office
  • Publication date: 1822-23.
  • Physical description: First edition. Two volumes quarto (260 by 195mm), volume I with two folding tables, six folding engraved maps and charts, and six folding plates of engraved landfalls and coastal views, with two to four profiles per plate; volume II with two large folding engraved maps on thick paper, one of Sitka Bay and other adjoining parts of Russian possessions on the northwest coast of America, and the other of Chiniat Bay on Kodiak Island. Full red morocco with gilt roll borders, rebacked with original spines tooled in gilt, morocco lettering pieces, all edges gilt.

    Collation: [8]. 512, xliv, [errata leaf]; [8], 205, [1], cxxvii, [3] pp.
  • Inventory reference: 11921


Lada-Mocarski notes that Vasili Golovnin was “one of the outstanding Russia naval officers of the nineteenth century, made several voyages to the North Pacific and to the northwest coast of America. He has left valuable accounts of his voyages and of the investigation of the state of the Russian colonies in America, which he conducted by order of the emperor in 1818… The work described herein is of utmost importance and of great rarity.”

Vasili Mikhailovich Golovnin (1776-1831) was born in the village of Gulyniki in Ryazan Oblast, on his father’s country estate. On the orders of Tsar Alexander I, Golovnin was sent, along with several other Russian officers, to obtain further training aboard British ships. He served three years (1802-1805) with the British fleet and on his return to Russia compiled a code of naval signals on the English pattern, which remained in use by the Russian fleet for more than twenty years. Golovnin was given command of the sloop Diana in 1806, and made his first voyage around the world (1807-1809), with the object of conducting a survey of the northern Pacific, and transporting supplies to Okhotsk. He, and his ship, were taken prisoner by the British authorities at the Cape of Good Hope, but orchestrated an audacious escape to complete their voyage to Kamchatka. In 1811, Golovnin described and mapped the Kuril Islands, but was again taken prisoner, this time by the Japanese, for violating sakoku, the Japanese law prohibiting foreigners from entering Japan, almost provoking a war between the two countries. He was released in 1813, and returned to Russia, publishing an account of his captivity and of Japanese culture.

In 1817, Golovnin set out on a second voyage around the world, this time in command of the frigate Kamchatka. Serving under him were three future Russian explorers of prominence: Fyodor Litke, Fyodor Matyushkin, and Ferdinand von Wrangel. The objective was to deliver supplies to Kamchatka, and survey previously unexplored islands along what is now the northwestern coast of Alaska. After returning to Russia in September 1819, Golovnin returned with “a vast store of scientific and astronomical information” (Dunmore) to share with Russian scientists, and published the present work describing his voyage, and his encounters with the native Kodiak and Sandwich Islanders. In 1821, Golovnin was appointed assistant director of the Russian Naval College, and later, in 1823, General Quartermaster of the Fleet. He died of cholera during an epidemic that swept through the city of Saint Petersburg in 1831.

On the voyage he spent a fortnight in Hawaii, meeting briefly with Kamehameha. One of the folding maps in the first volume is the entrance to the port of “Gonoruru”, or Honolulu, noted by Forbes as “one of the earliest maps of Honolulu”. The second volume contains a map of Sitka Bay and the surrounding area, and a map of Chiniat Bay, both of which are rare.

OCLC/WorldCat locates eight copies in institutional libraries.


1. Presentation copy, with ink inscription in Russian to Nikolay Petrovich Rumyantsev on the flyleaf of the first volume.
Nikolay Petrovich Rumyantsev (1754–1826) held the highest offices of state, including those of Minister of Commerce (1802–11), President of the State Council (1810–12), Foreign Minister (1808–12), and Chancellor of the Russian Empire. On receiving the news of Napoleon’s invasion of Russia, he suffered a stroke and lost his hearing. He retired in 1814, shortly before the Treaty of Vienna and died twelve years later in his palace on the English Quay in St Petersburg.

2. From the collection of Warren Heckrotte, San Francisco, USA.


  1. Forbes 545
  2. John Dunmore, Who's Who in Pacific Navigation (Honolulu: University of Hawaii Press, 1991), p.118
  3. Howes G-232
  4. Lada-Mocarski 82.

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