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  • Les Voyages aux Indes Orientales, and: Voyage en Europe 1652-1662
  • Nicholas Dew
Jean de Thévenot : Les Voyages aux Indes Orientales. Édition critique établie, présentée et annotée par Françoise de Valence. (Les Géographies du monde, 11). Paris: Honoré Champion, 2008. 324 324 pp.
Jean de Thévenot : Voyage en Europe 1652-1662. Édité par Françoise de Valence d'après le manuscrit M 3217, Bibliothèque de l'Arsenal à Paris. (L'Atelier des voyages, 6). Paris: Honoré Champion, 2010. 181 pp.

Jean (de) Thévenot (1633-1667) — the particle in the name, though appearing in his printed works, was not always used (and the Bibliothèque nationale catalogue rejects it) — was the author of one of the seventeenth-century's most read travel books, based on his two extended journeys: the first, to the Ottoman Levant and Egypt (1665-62), and the second, to Safavid Persia and to Mughal India (1663-67). His collected travels were frequently cited in the eighteenth century, along with those of his contemporaries Jean-Baptiste Tavernier, Jean Chardin, and François Bernier. Jean is still sometimes confused with his uncle, the bibliophile and scientific amateur Melchisédech Thévenot (c. 1622-1692), who edited a large compilation of travel accounts but who never set foot beyond Europe. Coming from a family of Parisian robins (Jean's father had been secrétaire du roi), and closely linked to the literary elite (his stepfather was Nicolas Faret), Jean had the education and the connections to produce a book that would please salonnières and curieux alike. His first volume, covering his journey to the Levant, was published in 1664. However, since he did not return from the second voyage, having died in 1667 in Persia on the way home, the second and third volumes, with his accounts of Persia and India respectively, were posthumous: the second appeared in 1674, and the third in 1684, both edited by Thévenot's friend François Pétis de La Croix, and by his brother Bonaventure Thévenot. Like Bernier's travels, Thévenot's were republished several times and were widely translated. The Voyages aux Indes Orientales is a new edition, by Françoise de Valence, of the third part, the Indian voyages, based on the 1689 re-edition. Valence adds useful notes, which are her translations and amplifications of those provided by Surendranath Sen for a 1949 edition, Indian Travels of Thevenot and Careri (Delhi: National Archives of India). Valence's brief introduction (pp. 7-23) sets out the biography competently but adds little to the existing scholarship. Maintaining the separation of Thévenot's text into its three parts seems of questionable value, since we still lack a critical edition of the entire text (Stéphane Yérasimos's 1980 edition (Paris: F. Maspero) is only of the first, Ottoman part). Whether we shall see a complete edition is doubtful, given that electronic versions of the original editions are now freely available online. The Voyage en Europe is Valence's edition of Thévenot's hitherto unavailable account of his European travels before and after his first journey to the Levant. Leaving Paris in December 1652 at the age of nineteen, Jean visited south-east England, the Low Countries, southern Germany, the Tyrol, Trent, and Venice, reaching Rome in 1655. His account of this three-year journey moves briskly (pp. 19-81 in the edition); there is then a break for the first voyage to the Levant, from 1655 to 1662, and the text continues on Thévenot's return to Europe, covering the journey from Tuscany back to Paris in [End Page 393] 1662, this time in more detail (pp. 83-161). The prefaces to Thévenot's published book mention that his European sections had been cut, on the grounds that European countries were sufficiently well known to readers. It is easy to share the bookseller's judgement, since the young Thévenot's observations are, for the most part, conventional; their value is as evidence of the rough notes of a young traveller. Indeed, perhaps the most interesting aspect of this edition is the clear...


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