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CHARDIN, John, Sir. Des vortrefflichen Ritters Chardin des grossen Königs in Persien Hoff-Handelsmanns, Curieuse Persian- und Ost-Indische Reise-Beschreibung..., Leipzig, [Gleditsch, 1687].

The French jewel merchant and traveller Jean Chardin (1643-1713) was born to a family of merchants in Paris. Nothing is known of his youth; on the whole, what is known of Chardin consists the information included in his own writings. In 1664 he started out on his first journey to Persia, which he reached in 1666, by way of Istanbul and the Black Sea; not much else is known of his itinerary. The Shah Abash II bought jewels of mythical value from Chardin. In 1667 Chardin travelled to the East Indies, where he met two other French travellers, J. Thevenot and J. B. Tavernier. He stayed at Shiraz, visited the ruins of Persepolis and remained in Persia until 1669, to return to Paris in 1670.

The financial success of his first journey led him to venture into a second journey just fifteen months after his return to Europe. Better organized this time, he sailed to Izmir and started on a long voyage which lasted two years, across the Ottoman Empire, Georgia, Armenia and Persia. During the voyage, Chardin fell victim to bandits who robbed him of nearly all his belongings. He stayed at Isfahan for four years and travelled to several regions from the Caspian Sea to the Persian Gulf and Indus river. He acquired a great fortune and returned to Europe by way of the Cape of Good Hope.

In 1681 Chardin fled to London, as the Huguenots were persecuted in France. He entered the high society of Britain, was named jeweller to the king and later titled a lord. Due to his emigration to Britain, he is better known by the anglicised version of his name, Sir John Chardin. Some years later, Chardin was in the Netherlands, where he served at the English West Indies company.

Chardin's chronicle is distinct from other travel accounts of the same era. Instead of repeating stereotyped information on the administration and culture of the Ottoman Empire, he gives reliable insight into contemporary political events, and the first somewhat complete account of the geography and history of Georgia. Chardin died before finishing the third and most descriptive chapter of his travels. The first part of his work was published in 1686 and the edition was concluded in 1711. The last and most complete version of the text was published in 1811.

Chardin personally witnessed several events in the Persian court and also spoke Persian. In addition, he consulted the texts of several important Persian geographers in order to compose his work. An observant, honest and fair analyst, he wrote a major account of the Persian empire. Several of the plates which illustrate his chronicle were drawn by the French draughtsman Joseph Guillaume Grelot. Chardin met Grelot at Istanbul and asked him to accompany him on his travels to faraway Persia.

Written by Ioli Vingopoulou

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