THÉVENOT, Melchisedec.

L'Art de Nager, demontre par figures,

Avec des avis pour se baigner utilement.

Paris: chez Thomas Moette, 1696 Stock Code: 146986
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Popularizing breaststroke

First edition of the first French book on swimming and one of the earliest books on the subject in an era when most Europeans, even sailors, could not swim. The book was widely read during the 18th century, including by Benjamin Franklin, an avid swimmer in his youth.

The book is illustrated with 35 engraved plates by Charles Moette of people swimming. Thévenot describes a breaststroke executed with the face out of the water and an underwater arm recovery (the stage of a stroke when the limbs relax and return to the starting position). After the English translation of Thevenot's work became the standard swimming reference, the breaststroke remained the most common stroke used by swimmers for centuries.

In his preface, Thévenot rightly claims his book to be the first on the subject in French, the only preceding works known to him in any language being Nicolas Wynman's Colymbetes (1538) and Sir Everard Digby's short Latin tract De arte natandi (1589, translated into English in 1595).

Thévenot, who was a scientist, traveller, cartographer, orientalist, inventor, and diplomat, is often confused with his nephew, the traveller Jean de Thévenot.

Confused? Read our glossary


Duodecimo (149 x 82 mm). Attractive 18th-century French mottled calf, spine gilt in compartments with flower tools, sides with triple gilt rules, marbled endpapers, gilt edges.


With 35 engraved plates.


Engraved bookplate of Jean-François Gillet, écuyer (squire), 1778; small modern MK bookplate. A little rubbing to extremities, title leaf lightly spotted, else an excellent copy of this charming book.


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