Dorothy Sloan -- Books

Copyright 2000- by Dorothy Sloan-Rare Books Inc. for all materials on this site. All rights reserved, including the right of reproduction in whole or in part in any form.



Lot 59


59. BOUGAINVILLE, Louis Antoine de. A Voyage Round the World. Performed by Order of His Most Christian Majesty, In the Years 1766, 1767, 1768, and 1769. By Lewis de Bougainville, Colonel of Foot, and Commodore of the Expedition, in the Frigate La Boudeuse, and the Store-ship L’Etoile. Translated from the French. By John Reinhold Forster, F.A.S. London: J. Nourse, and T. Davies, 1772. xxviii, 476 pp., 5 copper-engraved folding maps and 1 folding copper-engraved plate (ships of South Sea Natives). 4to, original drab blue boards, (expertly and sympathetically rebacked in tan paper with author and title printed in black, new endpapers), untrimmed. Very fine and desirable in original boards. Nineteenth century ink ownership inscription of Joseph H. S. Burrett(?) on first leaf. Cloth clamshell case.

     First edition in English of the first French circumnavigation (first edition, Paris, 1771). Berger, Bibliografía do Rio Janeiro, p. 44. Borba de Moraes, pp. 115-116: “This expedition had considerable repercussions ... not only for its discoveries in the Pacific, but also for having been organized with true scientific precision.” Cox I, p. 55. Cf. Davidson, pp. 96-98. Hill I, p. 32. Hill II:165. JCB III:1816. Kroepelien 113. Littell 84. O'Reilly-Reitman 285. Sabin 6869.

     Bougainville (1729-1811) started his career as a soldier in the French Army, participating notably in the French and Indian War. Captured after the fall of Quebec, he and other French officers were returned unceremoniously to France to sit out the rest of the war. He early realized the vital importance of the present-day Falkland Islands as a locale offering a chokehold on voyages from Europe into the Pacific and even financed a French settlement there. As part of negotiations at the end of the war, the Islands were surrendered to Spain, and Bougainville was ordered there on this voyage to superintend the surrender and then to continue around the world through the Pacific. In the American Revolution he fought Admiral Hood at Martinique.

     In some ways, this voyage is a history of near misses. Arriving at Tahiti, Bougainville barely missed being its discoverer, the island having been visited by Samuel Wallis the previous year. In addition, he approached the coast of Australia but did not land because he correctly feared the Great Barrier Reef, upon which Cook would come to grief just a few years later.

     On the other hand, this voyage had significant successes, most notably Bougainville’s observations about Tahiti. Apparently, somewhat steeped in the Romantic theories of the noble savage advanced by Rousseau and other philosophers, Bougainville in this work gave much ammunition to those who advocated that theory of humankind. His remarks on sexual freedom enjoyed by the islanders were particularly seized upon by many commentators. Bougainville notes for example: “Be this as it will, the wives owe their husbands a blind submission; they would wash with their blood any infidelity committed without their husbands’ consent. That, it is true, is easily obtained; and jealousy is so unknown a passion here, that the husband is commonly the first who persuades his wife to yield to another. An unmarried woman suffers no constraint on that account; every thing invites her to follow the inclination of her heart, or the instinct of her sensuality...” (pp. 256-257). Such passages inspired Diderot to write in 1772 his Supplément au voyage de Bougainville, a defense of sexual freedom (Kroepelien 1320, O’Reilly-Reitman 9275).

     Among other successes and original observations that one might cite in this narrative are what is apparently the first description of Tahitian tapa cloth (p. 261) and the first Tahitian vocabulary ever published in England (pp. 470-476). He also brought the first Tahitian to Europe. Bougainville was in Buenos Aires when the order for the expulsion of the Jesuits of Paraguay arrived, which he describes in detail. Finally, his voyage prompted later French Pacific explorations, such as those of Nicholas Marion du Fresne and the ill-fated Jean François de La Pérouse (see Item 68 herein).

     The translator, or translators, have been the source of some controversy on several levels. Although the title page states that John Reinhold Forster translated the work, it is believed that his father also had some hand in the work. (The Forsters accompanied Cook’s second voyage as naturalists.) Whoever made the translation regrettably lacked a firm command of French, and in some places the original language is mutilated. Moreover, the translation is a model of chauvinism, in general asserting English superiority over the French, an attitude that drew a response from Bougainville in the second French edition. Although admitting that “Bougainville is a man of undoubted veracity and abilities, he has, however, in a few instances been misled by false reports, or prejudiced in favor of his nation: we have...corrected as far as it was in our power these mistakes, and impartially vindicated the British nation...” (p. vii). This attitude is displayed constantly throughout the work in footnotes. Although he lets it pass without comment, Forster must have been somewhat galled by Bougainville’s suggestion that the Tahitians were probably “indebted” to the English for venereal disease (p. 274). ($5,000-10,000).

Image (click to enlarge)


<<Previous Lot (58) | Back to Auction 17 Abstracts | Next Lot (60) >>

Home | Auction 17 | Auction 16 | Auction 18