VITRÉ, François Martin de (fl. 1600). Description du premier voyage faict aux Indes orientales par les François en l’An 1603. Paris: chez Laurens Sonnius, 1604.
8° (168 x 105 mm). Contemporary full limp vellum.
VERY RARE FIRST EDITION. François Martin de Vitré was a French sailor and adventurer from the city of Vitré who traveled to East Asia as far as Sumatra from 1601 to 1603. He was the first Frenchman to write an account of travels to the Far East. He was however preceded to the Far East by several French traders, such as Jean Parmentier in 1529.
In December 1600 a French trading company was formed through the association of Saint-Malo, Laval and Vitré, to trade with the Moluccas and Japan. Two ships, the Croissant and the Corbin, were sent around the Cape of Good Hope in May 1601. The Corbin was wrecked in the Maldives, beginning the adventure of François Pyrard de Laval, who managed to return to France in 1611.The second ship, the Croissant carrying Martin, reached Ceylon and traded with Aceh in Sumatra, but on the return leg was captured by the Dutch at Cape Finisterre. Martin and another Frenchman, François Pyrard, were among the first Frenchmen to visit India. They went to Surat and also visited the town of Gujarat. In his Memoires, Martin wrote that the world was learning from China at that time.
“French merchant-seaman, a native of Vitré, who together with Sieur Frotet and Francois Pyrard sailed for the East in 1601. His ship, the Corbin, reached Sumatra after fifteen months (Pyrard had been shipwrecked in the Maldives) but he found trading difficult due to conflicts with Dutch and Portuguese interests. However, having put together a modest cargo in Achin (=Banda Atjeh) in northern Sumatra, and having survived an attack by a Dutch vessel off Spain, he arrived back in St. Malo in 1603.
“On his return to France he was instructed by Henri IV to dictate a record of his experiences, resulting in the Description du premier voyage faict aux Indes Orientales, published in 1604, the first uniquely French account of a voyage to the East. Judging from the amount of material included in his text regarding the animals, plants and drugs of the Indies, as well as the inclusion of a treatise on scurvy, one might conclude that Martin had a background of surgery. A revised and expanded edition of Martin's work appeared in 1609 to which a small dictionary of Malay was added” (Howgego, Exploration to 1800, p. 1079). Only record to appear on online databases going back to 1880s are a few copies of the 1609 edition.