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THEVENOT, Jean de. Voyages De Mr. De Thevenot en Europe qu'en Asie & en Afrique, divisez en trois parties contenant cinq tomes..., vol. I, Amsterdam, Michel Charles le Céne, M. DCC. XXVII. [=1727].

Jean de Thévenot (1633-1667) was born in France. He travelled to England, the Netherlands, Germany and Italy when he was twenty years old. While in Rome, he met B. d’Herbelot de Molainville, who asked Thévenot to accompany him on his journey to the East. Finally, D'Herbelot was unable to travel and Thévenot left on his own in May 1655. After a five-month wait in Malta he sailed out to Istanbul, where he stayed until August 1656.

Afterwards, Thévenot visited Smyrna, Chios and other Greek islands in a space of five months and reached Alexandria on New Year's Eve of 1657. He stayed in Egypt for a year, visited Cairo and the Sinai Peninsula, and made the pilgrimage to the Holy Land. In January 1659 he sailed out from Alexandria, reached Livorno by way of Tunis, and finally returned to Paris in 1659 with a vast collection of plants. Thévenot introduced coffee grains to Paris, a few years after a French merchant had brought them to Marseilles.

After publishing the first part of his chronicle, Thévenot left again in 1663, to visit India by way of Syria and Mesopotamia. He toured the empire of Persia for several months, travelling for some time in the company of French merchant J.B. Tavernier (Hamadan, Kermanshah, Shiraz, Persepolis, Isfahan and Basora). He then crossed to India, where he stayed for eleven months. He died in 1667 at the age of thirty-four on his way to Tauris, before the complete edition of his travel account could be published.

Thévenot was a fluent speaker of Turkish, Arabic and Persian. Eager for knowledge and keenly observant as well as a fanatic of botany, he composed an original description of everyday life in the East, a pioneering text considered equal to Spon's work on systematic archaeological research, The first part of Thevenot's travel impressions was published in Paris in 1665. The second and third part were published posthumously in 1674 and 1684. A complete edition was released in Paris in 1689 and another one, illustrated with splendid copper engravings, was printed in Amsterdam in 1727. Thevenot did not possess a special education and did not travel on a mission. He was rather an honest and ingenuous traveller, who wished to relate what had already been said hundreds of times in the most simple and immediate way.

Written by Ioli Vingopoulou

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