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Through Alien Eyes

The Visit of the Russian Ship "Rurik</I> to San Francisco in 1816 and the Men behind the Visit


Edward Mornin

During the month of October 1816, San Francisco received a visit from the Russian brig Rurik, only the third non-Spanish vessel to call at what was then a small colonial garrison and mission town on the extreme edge of Spanish North America. In this book the author provides English translations of reports of the visit (originally in German and French) by the ship’s captain Otto von Kotzebue, naturalist Adelbert von Chamisso, and on-board artist Louis Choris. Eleven illustrations by Choris are also reproduced, including celebrated scenes and portraits of California mission Indians. Edward Mornin provides biographical sketches of the three reporters, a historical account of Rurik’s round-the-world voyage, and a critical discussion of the observations of Kotzebue, Chamisso, and Choris, with their ideological and cultural determinants, especially with regard to the Indians under the control of the Spanish missionaries. The book shows how the narrative accounts of Kotzebue, Chamisso, and Choris, together with Choris’s graphic record, continue to fascinate not only for their engaging portrayal of San Francisco’s early inhabitants and the circumstances of their lives, but as shadow portraits of the reporters themselves and of the European cultures that produced them.
Contents: Visit of Russian ship Rurik to San Francisco in 1816 – Translated reports of captain (Otto von Kotzebue), naturalist (Adelbert von Chamisso), and on-board artist (Louis Choris) – Reproductions of illustrations by Choris – Account of Rurik's round-the-world voyage – Biographical sketches of Kotzebue, Chamisso, and Choris – Discussion of their views on Spanish colonial garrison and mission, mission Indians, soldiers and missionaries – Postcolonial assessment of reports and reporters.