SONNERAT, Pierre (1748-1814). Voyage aux Indes Orientales et a la Chine, fait par ordre du roi, depuis 1774 jusqu'en 1781. Paris: chez l'Auteur, 1782.
2 volumes, 4° (250 x 188 mm). 140 engraved folding plates and views by Poisson after drawings by Sonnerat. Contemporary French mottled calf gilt, sides with unidentified central gilt coat of arms (some wear with repairs to joints and extremities). Provenance: unidentified arms on bindings (see OHR pl. 2074); early signature on titles deleted in ink (with damage repaired in first volume).
FIRST EDITION of this "celebrated classic of natural history exploration and discoveries in the Far East" (Hill). The author travelled to India, China, Ceylon, Ceylon, the Philippines, Burma, Madagascar, the Cape of Good Hope and elsewhere.
“The text can be classified in three distinct groups: the topographical, already sketched in 1776; the sociological, embodying the studies conducted in Southern India, composed mainly between 1777 and 1779; and finally, the part relative to natural history, based on observations made during different periods of the journey, but mainly completed at Isle de France [i.e. Mauritius] and Madagascar during the years 1779-1780” (Ly-Tio-Fane, p. 105).
“Despite its imperfections (and perhaps as a result of the storm of criticism it evoked), the publication had an immediate impact on the public and was soon out of print. It was translated in German (Zurich, 1783); extracts were published in the same language (Frankfurt and Leipzig, 1784) and in Swedish (Uppsala, 1786); there was one English edition published in Calcutta in 1788. Time did not dull the interest which the public took in this work. In 1806, Sonnini published a second edition, comprising some of Sonnerat’s original manuscripts, scientific notes prepared by the editor, and completed by those official documents which were no longer state secrets” (Ly-Tio-Fane, p. 130).
Cioranescu XVIII, 60453; Cordier Sinica III, 2102 (“Pour la beauté des épreuves, cette édition est préférable à celle de 1806”); Cox I, p. 300 (“valuable work”); Pritzel (2nd ed.) 8774; Quérard IX, p. 210. See Madeleine Ly-Tio-Fane, Pierre Sonnerat, 1748-1814: an Account of His Life and Work, 1976.