New edition of Mannerheim’s Asia diary nominated for Finnish book award

The books' design is both beautiful and classic, evoking the grand traditions and artistry of 19th-century travelogues.


Harry Halén, a philologist and the foremost expert on Gustaf Mannerheim’s Asian expedition, has just been nominated for the Teito-Finlandia book award for nonfiction for his masterful new edition of Mannerheim’s travelogue. Like his original diary, or dagbok in Swedish, this three-volume book is in Mannerheim’s mother tongue. Co-published by Svenska litteratursällskapet in Helsinki and Atlantis Books in Stockholm, it has been called “an ethnographic gold mine.”

Here’s my original blog post describing the book. And Here’s what the Teito award’s jury had to say about the book:

Harry Halen (Editor): Gustaf Mannerheim: Diary Performed during my trip to Central Asia and China 1906-07-08. Helsinki: Society of Swedish Literature in Finland & Atlantis, 2010.

To date, the travel diaries, which the Tsarist officer Mannerheim took during his more than two year-long visit to Central Asia and China, have been released only in abbreviated form. The photographs have been published twice separately.

The entire diary, which is now published in three parts, totals almost 1200 pages and goes beyond the diary entries to include other more personal notes, drawings, sinologist terminology and details of the equipment needed for the trip. About 170 of Mannerheim’s 1,000 photographs have also been published. Many of these have not previously been available in print.

As a connoisseur of languages and cultures in Central Asia, Harry Halén masters the content throughout. He has also modernized the diaries and place names so that they comply with modern spellings.

The travelogue presents Mannerheim’s multifaceted mission in Asia. He served as the Russian expatriate cartographer, made anthropological observations and collected items for Finland. The notes reveal the true character of the journey. His spy mission was masked as a scientific expedition. The purpose was to serve Imperial Russia’s expansion efforts in China’s direction.

In the diary entries, the real man appears which are better than the memoirs which were written decades later by the great man and field marshal.

The technically brilliant photographs convey the journey efforts, but also the fascination and genuine interest of the people you met during your journey.

The opening pages of the book show Mannerheim seated at the Russian consulate in Kashgar, China.

Photo editor Peter Sandberg has succeeded in creating visually compelling volumes.

The facial complexion on these Kalmyk monks has been lightened.

Evocative photographs, beautifully reproduced, give the volumes visual umph!

A hand-drawn map by Mannerheim of his route through China.

This satellite map of Mannerheim's route on the volumes' endpapers is disappointing and feels out-of-place. I would have preferred a black-and-white reproduction or perhaps even Mannerheim's hand-drawn map.

Here are diagrams in Mannerheim's original hand-written diary.

Here are those same diagrams reproduced in Halén's new Swedish edition.

A small drawing of a hut in Halen's new Swedish edition.

Tables have been introduced into Halén's new edition.

A masterful new edition and magnum opus.


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  • Nicolas Poiret

    Does an English edition of this diary exist? Thank you.