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A Relation of the Voyage to Siam Performed by Six Jesuits,

sent by the French King, to the Indies and China, in the year, 1685. With their astrological observations, and their remarks of natural philosophy, geography, hydrography, and history. Published in the original, by the express orders of His most Christian Majesty. And now made English, and illustrated with sculptures.

London: printed by T[homas]. B[raddyll]. for J. Robinson and A. Churchil, and are to be sold by S. Crouch, 1688 Stock Code: 115740
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Well illustrated account of the first French mission to Thailand

First edition in English of Tachard's Voyage de Siam des pères jésuites (1686); one of two issues, this issue with a cancel title. The first French mission to Siam (modern Thailand) came about as a result of an invitation of Constantine Phaulkon, a Greek adventurer who by a curious twist of fate had become prime minister of Siam. In response to Phaulkon's urging that the king of Siam was ripe for conversion, Louis XIV agreed to send an embassy. The Marquis de Chaumont was selected as ambassador, assisted by the Abbé de Choisy. Six Jesuit fathers were willing to accompany the mission. Tachard stayed with the Siamese mission as geographer; the other five continued to China, where they helped establish the French mission at Peking. Tachard returned to France with the ambassador in December 1685, taking with them Kosa Pan, an official of the Siamese court, as an ambassador to the French king. The embassy reached France in June 1686 and stayed there until March 1687, during which time Tachard wrote this account, before himself returning to Siam on a second expedition.

The book also describes the expedition's sojourn at the Cape Colony, where, despite Dutch suspicion of French designs in the region, they received a hospitable welcome from the governor, Simon van der Stel, and the Cape Commissioner Van Rheede. Tachard describes Van der Stel as popular and efficient; they had long conversations and discussed the governor's expedition to Namaqualand and the plants and animals observed. While at the Cape the Jesuits were given the use of a house and a building in the Company's garden from which to make astronomical observations. Local Catholics flocked to visit the Jesuits in their "little observatory" where Tachard made a determination of the longitude of the settlement.

Tachard's friendship with Van der Stel's artist, Hendrik Claudius, caused concern as it was thought that Claudius was giving too much political and economic information to the French and later led to him being removed from the Cape. Mendelssohn mentions that Claudius gave Tachard a map of South Africa showing the distribution of "the inhabitants of the country and the rarest animals". This could be the map facing page 66. The illustrations include two pictures of the inhabitants of the Cape Colony (one of Hottentots and one of Namaqua people), as well as several animals and reptiles.

The book is well-held institutionally but scarce in commerce: auction records going back to 1957 show only four copies sold in that period.

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Octavo (180 x 107 mm). Contemporary unlettered panelled calf, red sprinkled edges. Housed in a brown cloth flat-back box by the Chelsea Bindery.


Additional engraved title page and 30 engraved plates, views, and maps, mostly folding, many after Hendrik Claudius. With license-to-print on verso of title page. Page 308 misnumbered 298.


Some neat professional repairs to the joints and corners, front free endpaper renewed, ownership inscription erased from front pastedown, slip of plain paper pasted to pastedown, front free endpaper removed, a few trivial marks, most noticeable in the first quire, outer leaves of final quire a little dusty and creased at foot, overall a very good copy.


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