4to (234 x 162mm), pp. [xvi], 1193, , title printed in red and black, woodcut initials and headpieces; some light browning and a few isolated spots, minor dampstain affecting some upper margins; 17th-century French calf, spine richly gilt; rubbed, skilfully rebacked preserving spine compartments, corners restored, nonetheless a very good copy; provenance: ‘Mad[ame] La Marquise d’Agoult’ (18th-century ownership inscription on front free endpaper).
US $6718 €5442
First edition in French of Mendes Pinto’s celebrated travel account; rare. The original Portuguese edition was published in 1614, although the first draft of the book had been completed by 1569. The present ‘atmospheric and faithful French translation’ (Lach, Asia in the Making of Europe, III, p. 401) is by Bernard Figuier (probably Bernardo Figueiro) and was reprinted in 1645 and 1663. Figuier seems to have made use of both Portuguese and Spanish versions for his translation.
Mendes Pinto sailed from Lisbon for India in 1537 and spent the next 20 years travelling extensively in Asia and the Far East, including the Malay Peninsula, Thailand, Vietnam, Burma, China and Japan. ‘The veracity of his lively account of his “peregrinations” (as he called them) has been challenged, but although his tales may be exaggerated and in some cases borrowed, they remain entertaining, and the work is considered a classic of Portuguese literature. Mendes Pinto claimed to be one of the first Europeans to enter Japan, in 1542 or 1543, and to have introduced the musket there […]. While a number of the details of his work are obviously taken from other accounts, such as the visits to Ethiopia and Tibet, the overall picture of Asia in the first half of the sixteenth century has undoubted authenticity’ (Hill p. 400).
‘Gifted with keen imagination, [Mendes Pinto] could exaggerate when expediency required, but he knew that in the account of his travels exaggeration was not expedient, and he was constantly on guard against the notorious scepticism of his fellow-countrymen. He may have heightened the colour occasionally, but as a rule he writes with restraint, although with delight in a good story and skill in bringing out the dramatic side of events. It is one of the charms of his work that it is very definite in dates and figures, but this also, through inevitable errors and misprints, afforded a handle to the pedantry of critics [...]. But [...] modern travellers have unequivocally confirmed the more favourable verdict and corroborated his detailed descriptions of Eastern countries. The mystery of the East, the heavy scent of its cities, its fervent rites and immemorial customs, as well as the magic of adventure, haunt his pages. A hundred pictures refuse to fade from the memory, whether they are of silk-laden Chinese junks or jars of gold dust, vivid descriptions of shipwreck [...] or the awful pathos of the Queen of Martavão’s death, the sketch of a supercilious Chinese mandarin or of St. Francis Xavier tramping through Japan’ (A.F.G. Bell, Portuguese Literature, 1922, pp. 224–5).
Cordier Japonica 37 and Indosinica 111; Löwendahl 76; cf. Hill 1146 (first English edition of 1653).
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A Voyage round the World ... In the years 1766, 1767, 1768, and 1769 ... Translated from the French by John Reinhold Forster. London: J.
First English edition. The first French circumnavigation, undertaken by Bougainville, who had instructions to hand over the Falkland Island, which he had colonised in 1764, to Spain (currently France’s ally), and then to proceed towards China via the Straits of Magellan and the South Sea, investigating the islands or continent lying between the Indies and the western seaboard of America (cf. John Dunmore, French Explorers in the Pacific (Oxford: 1965), I, p. 67). Unaware of Wallis’s visit less than a year before, Bougainville claimed possession of Tahiti, and then reached the New Hebrides archipelago and ‘La Austrialia del Espíritu Santo’, which had been discovered by Quiros in 1606 and was believed to be part of the supposed Southern Continent. The only way to determine this, Bougainville resolved, was to sail westward a further 350 leagues in the hope of sighting the eastern coast of New Holland. ‘This he did, only to be impeded by the Great Barrier Reef and, although several of his crew claimed to have sighted land, this was not confirmed and the ships were headed to the N. Nevertheless, Bougainville concluded that he was close to some extensive land and, in running westwards from Espíritu Santo, he had dared to face the risk of the legendary lee-shore of New Holland and New Guinea, even though prudence, shortage of food and the condition of his vessels would have justified his heading northwards at an earlier date’ (Colin Jack-Hinton, The Search for the Islands of Solomon (Oxford: 1969), p. 256); G.A. Wood, The Discovery of Australia (London: 1922) observes that had Bougainville persevered ‘he would have come to the Australian coast near Cooktown, and would, likely enough, have been wrecked where Cook was wrecked two years later’ (pp. 369-379).
A CRISP, UNCUT COPY OF THE FIRST BOTANICAL PUBLICATION ABOUT COOK’S SECOND VOYAGE COOK, Captain James – Johann Reinhold and (Johann) Georg Adam FORSTER.
Characteres generum plantarum, quas in itinere ad insulas Maris Australis, collegerunt, descripserunt, delinearunt, annis MDCCLXXII–MDCCLXXV.
First edition. Johann Reinhold Forster (1729-1798) and his son Georg Forster (1754-1794) travelled on Cook’s second voyage of 1772-1775 as naturalists, and their Characteres generum plantarum was the first botanical work about the voyage to be published and one of the earliest sources for European knowledge of the plants of Polynesia and Australasia – indeed, ‘it has been said to be the foundation of our knowledge of New Zealand, Antarctic, and Polynesian vegetation’ (Hill). As Henrey explains, ‘[t]he work is botanically important as containing a large number of new generic and specific names relating to plants of Australasia and Polynesia. It appears that in the preparation of this undertaking the Forsters were able to use the fine natural history library belonging to Sir Joseph Banks, and to seek the advice of his librarian Daniel Carl Solander. Furthermore, they had free access to the Banks and Solander collections made on Cook’s first voyage [...] to the Pacific, and to Solander’s manuscripts’ (II, p. 167).