SONNERAT, Pierre Voyage aux Indes orientales et à la Chine. Fait par ordre du Roi depuis 1774 jusqu’en 1781.


Sonnerat's travel through India and China illustrated with 140 plates

A rare and precious copy printed on large-paper, entirely watercoloured at the time and preserved in its original red morocco binding attributable to Derome le Jeune.

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Paris, 1782.

2 volumes 4to bound in full red morocco, triple gilt fillet on the covers, spine ribbed and decorated, inner gilt border, edges gilt. Contemporary binding.

289 x 220 mm.

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First edition of this “classic record of natural history, explorations and discoveries in the Far East, which included explorations in Ceylon, the Philippines, Moluccas, Cape of Good Hope”. (Mac Gill/Wood).

Cottrel 16; Hill 578; Nissen IV, B 886; Nissen SUB 473; Pritzel 8774; Stresemann 83; Mac Gill/Wood 577.

Born in a merchants’ family, Pierre Sonnerat (1748-1814) a French naturalist and explorer, could, thanks to his family connections with Poivre, take part in 2 expeditions undertaken by him from 1767 to 1774 to Mauritius, to Madagascar, Moluccas and the Philippines. As a naturalist, he wanted to bring back his most precious discoveries to the king’s garden. He was sent to India in 1774. During two successive expeditions he visited the Coromandel and Malabar coasts, Ceylon, Malacca and China.

He was the first person to give a scientific description of the south Chinese fruit tree lychee.

In his two accounts of travel dedicated respectively to China and India, Pierre Sonnerat gives the results of his explorations regarding the customs, sciences, art, religious practices of the countries visited, as well as all his fascinating observations about natural history.

Volume 1 was completely dedicated to India and Volume 2 covered the Far East including China, Burma, Madagascar, the Maldives, Mauritius, Ceylon (present-day Sri Lanka), Indonesia, and the Philippines.

In order to illustrate his work, the author drew himself 140 large plates that were then engraved by Poisson, Milsan and Avril.

Some of the plates show the customs of the countries visited, with lots of details about the professions, festivals and costumes of the people.

55 beautiful plates are dedicated to ornithology, zoology and botany. Many birds’ species are represented here for the first time: “Indeed for 70 years Sonnerat’s account remained the most important contribution to the ornithology of China” (Streseman).

All the plates of our copy, printed on large-paper, were entirely contemporary watercoloured in very vivid colors.  

Very precious copy, entirely watercoloured, preserved in its contemporary binding attributable to Derome le Jeune.

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