Views of St. Petersburg 120–121
Founded by Peter the Great in the early eighteenth century, St. Petersburg was built along the Neva River and its tributaries and on islands near its mouth, where it empties into the Gulf of Finland in the eastern Baltic. The bottom engraving shows a view of the Neva, with the Admiralty on the left bank and, directly opposite, the Academy of Science. The Academy, which John Quincy Adams occasionally visited during his first sojourn in the Russian capital, was located in Vassilyostrof quarter, an island in the Neva, and near much of St. Petersburg's commercial district. Well endowed with a large faculty and an extensive natural history, geological, and art museum, the Academy derived considerable income from the publication and sale of books, almanacs, court calendars, and gazettes.
The Admiralty, seen from a different perspective in the illustration on the upper left, was a rectangular structure with a gilt spire.
Surrounded by earthen ramparts, it was “remarkable,” one foreign visitor thought, “for nothing but its ugly appearance.” Nevertheless, in close proximity to most of the principal royal and governmental buildings, its immediate environs were “the centre of amusement and business, the brilliant resort of pleasure and fashion.” It was not far from here that Dana and young Adams first took lodgings when they came to the Russian capital. The Admiralty was also the geographical center of the city, most of which was on the left or southern bank, and it was from this point that three long, straight streets called Prospects ran out in various directions, like radii, to the outskirts of the capital.
The most important of these was the Nevski Prospect, which headed southeast about five miles to the monastery of St. Alexander Nevski. The view on the upper right shows this broad avenue at about midpoint, looking back toward the heart of the city. In the foreground is the Annitskoi (or Anitschkov) Palace and the Fontanka River, one of several older rivulets at this time being made into canals, which formed irregular concentric semicircles radiating out from the Admiralty and dividing the city into distinct quarters. The Nevski Prospect was lined with the grand houses of “the great and the opulent” and contained many hotels and shops filled with “a constant bustle” unknown in other quarters of the city.
The views were drawn by Louis Nicolas de Lespinasse and engraved by François Denis Née and Claude Niquet. All of these illustrations come from an untitled volume containing views, maps, tables, charts, and pictures of Russians in native costumes which was owned by John Quincy Adams and is now in the Stone Library at the Old House in Quincy. It is undoubtedly a companion “Atlas” to Nicholas G. C. Le Clerc's Histoire physique, morale, civile et politique de la Russie ancienne,
3 vols., Paris and Versailles, 1783–1784, and Histoire physique, morale, civile et politique de la Russie moderne,
3 vols., Paris and Versailles, 1783–1785. Both sets are among Adams' books at Quincy, and the first volume contains, as does the Atlas, the business label of the St. Petersburg bookseller Etter, from whom Adams purchased them while he was minister there. A number of references throughout Le Clerc's volumes indicate that these plates were to be reproduced as a separate volume. Harvard has another edition (Histoire ... moderne,
1783–) of these volumes, given by John Quincy Adams to the college on 29 September 1797, when he was minister plenipotentiary to the court at Berlin (Storch, Picture of Petersburg,
p. 53, 297–301, 324–344, 38–39, 29, 20–22, 43–44; Bénézit, Dict. ... des peintres, sculpteurs, dessinateurs et graveurs
Courtesy of the U.S. Department of the Interior—National Park Service, Adams National Historic Site, Quincy, Massachusetts.