Piotr Sukhtelen and His Collection
The Dutch nobleman Jan Pieter van Suchtelen (Piotr Sukhtelen in Russian transcription), a military engineer, joined the Russian service in 1783, and served for Russia over more than half a century. A Lieutenant-General in the Russian army, the hero of the War of 1812 aganst Napoleon's invasion of Russia, the Russian ambassador at Sweden, P. Suchtelen was conferred with the title of Count of the Russian Empire. He was a man of deep and diverse knowledge, that is reflected in his collections. As a member of the council of state, he was given an apartment in St. Michael's Castle, the same one, in which the Emperor Paul I managed to live for only 40 days. One of the younger contemporaries remembers the impression made on him by the study room of P. Suchtelen,
'…At last, I was honored to visit his study room - library which deserves to be described. You can imagine my surprise when I went to the former throne hall of Emperor Paul. <…> But the walls of the hall were bare, they were not even coated with paint; simple wooden bookcases, with no windows and curtains, no less in height than one-half of the wall height, were placed tight together along the walls. Meanwhile their shelves were supported by jewels which could arouse envy of every bibliophile: it seems Elsevier Volumes alone were countless. In the middle of the room there stood, one by one, terrible tables with drawers to the floor, which kept other treasures in their depths: rare manuscripts, collections of prints and medals, and yet unsorted folios were piled on the tabletops. <…> He was a real bibliomaniac. It's such a luxury to satisfy which time and money is most needful. General Suchtelen, not poor and not rich, spent half of his income to buy books for all his life. The enormous library he left his heirs after his death, was acquired by the state treasury, since no private person was able to buy it.'
General Suchtelen's library was delivered by warship to St. Petersburg. It was not preserved as a entire collection but was dispersed to several public libraries in St. Petersburg and Helsinki. Almost all manuscripts from the collection, consisting of 260 handwritten books and about 40 thousand documents of the 16th-19th centuries, entered the Imperial Public Library (the former name of our library) in St. Petersburg. Among them are nearly 2000 Dutch autographs: official and private letters of stadhouders - rulers of the country, and the most important Dutch officials: grand pensionaries, General Secretaries , military and naval commanders.
Wedding congratulation letters to Jan Peter van Suchtelen and his bride Amarentia Wilhelmina Harting causes warm feelings. One of these letters is written by the mayor of Dordrecht Tets Arnoldus Adrianus van Goudriaan (1738 – 1792)
Amarentia Wilhelmina van Suchtelen followed her husband to Russia in 1783. Their children were born in Russia. The eldest son Lieutenant-General Pavel Suchtelen (1790-1833) participated in many military campaigns. His portrait, as well as a portrait of his father, hangs in the gallery of heroes of the War of 1812 at the Winter Palace.