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SONNINI DE MANONCOURT, Charles Nicolas Sigisbert. Voyage dans la Haute et Basse Égypte… Collection de Planches, Paris, F. Buisson, An VII [=1799].

Charles Nicolas Sigisbert Sonnini de Manoncourt (1751-1812), was a French nobleman and naturalist. He was educated in a Jesuit school and then studied Law. Guided by his passion for travelling, however, he abandoned law for a military career. In 1772 he was entrusted with a mission to Guiana. His explorations and topographic observations in unknown lands eventually led to the creation of the canal that bears his name, at the frontier of Peru with Argentina. Sonnini returned to France with a collection of rare birds. In 1777, upon orders of king Louis XVI, he started out on an expedition to Africa together with the Baron de Tott. Sonnini however stayed in Egypt and did not go further, in order to tour the antiquities of that country. Subsequently he visited the Aegean islands, Crete, Asia Minor, the Peloponnese, continental Greece and Macedonia. The chronicle of his travel to Egypt was published nearly twenty years later, in 1798, and the account of his journey to Greece and Turkey in 1801-1802. During the French revolution, Sonnini lost his property and was financially destroyed and imprisoned. He later (1810-11) lived in Moldavia and other Danubian countries, and wrote voluminous works on natural history, statistics, geography etc. He died without seeing the “flags of the revolution flying all over Greece”, as he had desired.

Sonnini’s account is suffused with love for Greece. He records a wealth of ethnographic material in vivid detail, mainly related to everyday life on the Aegean islands: weddings, a birth in all its detail, diet, traditional medicine, superstitions, celebrations, costumes – mostly female, commercial activities and numerous snapshots of Greek life forty years before the Revolution. This edition is the accompanying album to the three-volume account of Sonnini’s voyagel to Egypt. Botanological and zoological findinds as well as antiquities (fish, flora, statues, statuettes etc.) landscapes and a detailed map of Egypt complete Sonnini’s account, who at twenty-six was already an accomplished traveller and author.

Written by Ioli Vingopoulou

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