With over 100 full colour plates. When Professor P. S. Pallas set out from the Court of Catherine the Great, Empress of Russia, in 1793, he saw his task as huge, but essentially straightforward. He intended to travel through Russia, collecting information about anything and everything that he saw. To the Professor, the representative of Frederick William III of Prussia, as, indeed, to most Europeans, Russia was a land of mystery and- contradictions. Its vast landscapes, its people, languages and cultures were diverse, seemingly bizarre and barbaric. In the event, though, Professor Pallas encountered not only oddities of topography, anthropology, geology, botany and zoology on his journey from St Petersberg to the Crimea, but moments of great danger. Even so, he was captivated – and his Western audience was fascinated – by what he saw: whether it was the costumes of the natives, the way they built their huts, their customs, the fossils of Mariupol, or the teeming life of the great ports of the Black Sea. All was grist to his mill, and all was lovingly recorded – with insatiable curiosity, yet detachment, with objectivity, yet a certain charming wryness. Thirty years later, in 1814, Russia was very different. A young Englishman, called Robert Johnston, set out to report back to the West on a country ravaged by war. Two years previously, Napoleon had been turned back from Moscow at the point of a Russian bayonet. As Johnston put it, in his splendidly evocative prose: ‘The flames of Moscow have burst a new light on man; the falling towers of the Kremlin have chimed the tyrant’s parting knell, and proclaimed aloud that Europe is free!’ Full of peculiarities and mysteries Russia may still have been, but it was now a country taking its place among the civilized nations of Europe.