18th Century Tour of Greece

Comte de CHOISEUL-GOUFFIERVoyage pittoresque de la Grèce.

Paris, (J.-J. Blaise), 1782-1822.

2 volumes bound in 4, large folio, early 19thC. quarter brown calf over paper boards, smooth spines, gilt lettering, gilt fleuron in compartments, untrimmed. [1] Half-title, frontispiece-title, 2 unnumbered leaves (explanation of the frontispiece and table), XIIpp. (discours préliminaire), 112pp., [2] half-title, pp. 113-204 // [3] Engraved title, 2 unnumbered leaves (explanation of the frontispiece and table), 346pp.; [4] half-title and title, 1 unnumbered leaf, IXpp. (Notice sur la Vie et les Ouvrages de M. de Comte de Choiseul-Gouffier, par M. Dacier), pp. 347-518, 1 unnumbered table leaf.

Splendid illustration comprising 3 engraved titles, a portrait of the author by M. F. Dien after Boilly [volume II, second part], 2 large engraved folding maps, a double-page table “Race des Dardanus” [volume II, p. 184], elaborate head-and-tailpieces and 285 plates, maps and plans numbered 1-126 and 1-157, plus 8bis and 76bis, of which several double-page, engraved by the most famous artists of the period including Choffard, Huet, Monnet, A. de Saint-Aubin and Moreau le Jeune. Complete.

First Edition of one of the most desirable of all 18th-century works on Greece.

First issue with the caption “Tournois turcs” with a ‘s’ on plate 110.

Exceptional copy with 108 inserted proof prints: 2 vignettes in before letters state, 2 vignettes in pure etching state, 13 tailpieces in before letters state, 5 tailpieces in pure etching state, 32 plates before letters and 54 plates in pure etching. These proof prints are exceedingly scarce and unknown to bibliographers.

Ancient Greece has fascinated many writers of the eighteenth century. One of them is count Choiseul-Gouffier (1752-1817). Marie-Gabriel-Florent-Auguste Comte de Choiseul-Gouffier was a French nobleman, traveller and diplomat, born in Paris. He was greatly influenced by Abbé Barthélemy, the academician and fervent admirer of ancient Greek culture, who wrote the famous historical fiction “Le Voyage du jeune Anacharsis en Grèce” published in 1788. However, at the time the young count reached adulthood classical studies were highly developed in Europe and the new trend was to get to know the ancient past not only through reading the texts but also by visiting the actual historical locations. The first archaeological missions, such as the excavations in Pompeii, conducted by the Society of Dilettanti, had already been organized. In 1776, at the age of twenty-four, Choiseul-Gouffier sailed from Toulon, aboard the frigate “Atalante”, on his first voyage to Greece. His aim was twofold, to delineate ancient monuments and to describe the modern Greeks’ way of life. Fruit of this first year-long journey was the publication in 1782 of the first volume of his monumental “Voyage pittoresque de la Grèce”. Novel feature of this magnum opus is that the image holds pride of place, bringing the magical world of the East alive for the European reader. The publication was interrupted by the Revolution and resumed in 1809. The second part of the second volume was published posthumously after the author’s death, under the direction of Barbié du Bocage and Letronne.

The work met with immediate and enthusiastic success, which greatly facilitated the advance of Choiseul-Gouffier’s academic and political career. In 1784, he was elected a member of the Académie Française and was appointed Ambassador of France to the Sublime Porte by Louis XVI. He arrived in Constantinople in July 1785, thus making a second journey to the East, this time as diplomatic envoy of the French king to the sultan. He was accompanied by a large entourage of archaeologists, painters, draftsmen, engravers, astronomers and other scientists, who carried out rigorous research in mainland Greece and the islands, which lasted several years. However, in his new position, as representative of France and for diplomatic reasons, he adopted a different attitude towards the Greeks. In the second year of the French Revolution, following the decision of the Convention, Louis XVI ordered the recall of Choiseul-Gouffier from the Ottoman capital and his transfer to the French embassy in London. As a royalist, Choiseul-Gouffier refused to obey the order and resigned his post. He took refuge in the court of Catherine II of Russia, where he remained for almost a decade (1793-1802), and was appointed director of the Academy of Arts and Imperial Library. He did not return to France until after the Bourbon Restoration, when he was appointed to the office of Minister, as member of the Chamber of Peers of France. During his stay in Constantinople, Choiseul-Gouffier not only coordinated a large team of collaborators, architects, archaeologists, artists and scholars, in order to complete the delineations and drawings made during his travels, but also systematically organized several expeditions specifically for the appropriation and transportation of antiquities in large number, mainly from Athens and Attica. His personal collection of antiquities was sold to the Louvre and to private collectors.

The first volume of Choiseul-Gouffier’s work describes mainly his first voyage. From Toulon, the French frigate with its select passengers sailed to Sardinia, Malta and Sicily, and put in at the port of Coroni. Then followed the islands of Cimolos, Melos, Siphnos, Sicinos, Ios, Santorini, Naxos, Tenos, Syros, Delos, Paros, Antiparos, Scyros, Lemnos, Lesbos, Chios, Samos, Patmos, Cos, Rhodes and Symi. The party then crossed over to Çesme (Gr. “Krene”) opposite Chios, and Macre (pres. Fethiye), continuing their tour in western Asia Minor, visiting Telmessos, Mylassa, Stratonike, Bodrum-Halicarnassus, Iassos, Heraclea by Latmus, Didyma, Priene, Miletus, Ephesus, Teos and Smyrna. The second volume also deals with places in Asia Minor and the North Aegean such as Smyrna, Pergamus, Assus, Samothrace, and Troy. The third volume continues on to Alexandria Troas, Troy, Tenedos and the Straits of the Hellespont (Madytos, Abydos, Sestos, Callipolis and Lampsacus), and closes with Constantinople. It presents the city’s main monuments and sights, the Bosporus and a series of portrait types of Ottoman officials, itinerant traders and the various ethnic minorities coexisting in the capital of the Ottoman Empire.

This original and unique work is a landmark in the history of travel literature, which influenced all subsequent publications in the genre. The subjects of its engravings were copied numerous times and used to illustrate other travel works. Even today, these images, especially those from the Greek islands, are still very popular and widely known. They bring to life the land of Greece and its people, in the special landscape peculiar to each place. In this imposing work Choiseul-Gouffier expressed in a new and original way both the antiquarian and the emergent philhellenic spirit of his day.

Restauration to the bindings by an old hand, occasional faint foxing, generally a very good unsophisticated copy with ample margins.

Ref. Brunet, Manuel du Libraire, I, 1847 / Cohen-Ricci, Guide de l’amateur de livres à gravures du XVIIIe siècle, 238 /  Ioli Vingopoulou in The Travelogue, Aikaterini Laskaridis Foundation

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