Narrations d'Omaï, Insulaire de la Mer du Sud, Ami et Companion de Voyage du Capitaine Cook. Ouvrage traduit de l'O-taïtien, par M. K***, & publié par le Capitaine L.A.B. OMAI, Guillaume A. R. BASTON.
Narrations d'Omaï, Insulaire de la Mer du Sud, Ami et Companion de Voyage du Capitaine Cook. Ouvrage traduit de l'O-taïtien, par M. K***, & publié par le Capitaine L.A.B.
Narrations d'Omaï, Insulaire de la Mer du Sud, Ami et Companion de Voyage du Capitaine Cook. Ouvrage traduit de l'O-taïtien, par M. K***, & publié par le Capitaine L.A.B.

Narrations d'Omaï, Insulaire de la Mer du Sud…
Narrations d'Omaï, Insulaire de la Mer du Sud, Ami et Companion de Voyage du Capitaine Cook. Ouvrage traduit de l'O-taïtien, par M. K***, & publié par le Capitaine L.A.B.

Rouen: chez Le Boucher le jeune, & Paris, Buisson, 1790.

Four volumes, octavo, portrait and view ("Omaï Amené en Angletere par le Capitaine Furneaux"); uncut and unpressed in original grey wrappers, printed paper labels.

Omai's 'supreme literary tribute'

First edition and a most attractive set in completely original condition, uncut and unpressed, and to our eye about twice the thickness of a conventionally bound and pressed copy. This extraordinary work of imagination is one of the earliest and best works of fiction based on the voyages of Cook, testament to enduring interest in the voyage in Revolutionary France.

First edition and a most attractive set in completely original condition, uncut and unpressed, and to our eye about twice the thickness of a conventionally bound and pressed copy. This extraordinary work of imagination is one of the earliest and best works of fiction based on the voyages of Cook, testament to enduring interest in the voyage in Revolutionary France.

Quite against Cook's wishes, who was probably thinking of the tragic end of Banks's friend Tupia on the Endeavour voyage, Omai was taken on board the companion vessel on the second voyage, HMS Adventure, which returned to Portsmouth in July 1774. Immensely popular, he spent the next two years touring with his friends Banks and Solander, until he was returned to Tahiti on the third voyage (his dramatic return, on horseback and dressed in armour, no less, is depicted in one of the unofficial accounts of that voyage by the young officer John Rickman). Fascination with his life and his reaction to European life endured, first in the hugely-successful pantomime Omai: or a Trip Round the World, staged by Loutherbourg, and then, more unexpectedly, in this work by a little-known French divine.

Canon Baston (1741-1825) was a native of Rouen who published many works on rather arcane questions of theology, making the present work all the more surprising. With impressive rigour he here gives a highly imaginative "autobiography" of Omai, complete with a glossary of some of the trickier Tahitian words, depicting Omai as the 'saviour of his people, a leader who on returning from England purges his society of all its evils while he introduces only the benefits of European civilisation' (The Two Worlds of Omai, p. 14).

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Seen by Tarlton and McCormick as Omai's 'supreme literary tribute', the fantasy borrows heavily from the utopian imaginary voyage tradition by depicting Omai as the 'saviour of his people, a leader who on returning from England purges his society of all its evils while he introduces only the benefits of European civilisation' (Auckland City Art Gallery, The Two Worlds of Omai, 1977, p. 14).

Unlike his compatriot Diderot, whose writings on Autorou – the Tahitian who returned with Bougainville to France – are marked by bitter regret at the European influence on the Pacific, Baston depicts an idyllic synthesis of Tahitian innate nobility being enhanced and purified by contact with Europe. Tragically, of course, it was Diderot's cynicism which provided a far more accurate appraisal of the coming destruction of Polynesian society, a fact which increases the historical fascination of Baston's portrait of bucolic harmony.

Holmes, 74; Kroepelien, 54; O'Reilly-Reitman, 9312.

Condition Report: In strictly original condition, completely unrestored; unpressed, and therefore very thick, and uncut, and therefore edges a little frayed; wrappers wearing in places (see image).

Price (AUD): $7,850.00

US$5,746.20   Other currencies

Ref: #5000310

Condition Report