Item #5000368 Essai sur l'Isle d'Otahiti, situee dans la Mer du Sud; et sur l'Esprit et les Moeurs de ses habitans. M. TAITBOUT, but sometimes attributed to Louis-Antoine de BOUGAINVILLE.
Essai sur l'Isle d'Otahiti, situee dans la Mer du Sud; et sur l'Esprit et les Moeurs de ses habitans.

Essai sur l'Isle d'Otahiti, situee dans la Mer du Sud…
Essai sur l'Isle d'Otahiti, situee dans la Mer du Sud; et sur l'Esprit et les Moeurs de ses habitans.

Avignon: et se trouve à Paris, chez Froullé, 1779.

Octavo, with an engraved view of Tahiti as frontispiece; uncut as issued in original marbled wrappers, spine neatly replaced at some time.

The first separate work on Tahiti: with the rare engraving

First edition, extremely scarce, of the earliest separate work on Tahiti. Based for its facts on the reports of Wallis, Bougainville and Cook, and for its philosophy on Montesquieu and Rousseau, this was one of the most compelling and important philosophical works to draw inspiration from the recent voyages to the South Pacific. Tahiti was much discussed in Europe from the early 1770s, and various voyage accounts were in print during that decade, including those of Wallis, Bougainville and Cook. Most famously of all, the Tahitian Aotourou had travelled back to Paris with Bougainville in 1769, just as Omai had reached London with Cook in 1774.

First edition, extremely scarce, of the earliest separate work on Tahiti. Based for its facts on the reports of Wallis, Bougainville and Cook, and for its philosophy on Montesquieu and Rousseau, this was one of the most compelling and important philosophical works to draw inspiration from the recent voyages to the South Pacific. Tahiti was much discussed in Europe from the early 1770s, and various voyage accounts were in print during that decade, including those of Wallis, Bougainville and Cook. Most famously of all, the Tahitian Aotourou had travelled back to Paris with Bougainville in 1769, just as Omai had reached London with Cook in 1774.

'After its successive discoveries by Wallis, Bougainville, and Cook, Tahiti came to symbolize a living social and political experiment in the minds of many European philosophers: a primitive paradise that became spoiled and tainted by Western decadence. In this little work, often attributed to Bougainville – perhaps because it borrows extensively from his narrative and the earlier accounts of Cook and his accompanying naturalists, Joseph Banks, and Daniel Solander – Taitbout speculates on the fundamental differences between the "homme sauvage" and the "homme civilizé," drawing from the example of Tahiti. He suggests that societies like Tahiti, that evolved in isolation, could offer political lessons to European nations, but acknowledges that the arrival of Europeans on their shores will deal them a death blow. Taitbout's purpose, in his own words (translated), is revolutionary: "to assist in bringing about the much-desired general revolution, to which the human spirit will one day owe the free, complete, and perfect union of all men"…' (online resource at http://libweb5.princeton.edu/).

'Taitbout's pamphlet is of interest, not for the originality of its ideas, but because it reveals how notions of geographical control deriving from Montesquieu and applied by the Forsters to the islanders of the Pacific, could provide a rational explanation for the soft primitivism with which Bougainville, Hawkesworth, Banks, Diderot, and others, had endowed the peoples of the Society Islands, and add point and fire to a revolutionary pamphlet…' (Bernard Smith, European vision and the South Pacific, 1985, p. 87). Throughout, Taitbout speculates on the implications of a society evolving in isolation from Europe, as well as on the fatal blow that the European incursion represented to their lives.

Barbier notes that the book – published anonymously but now attributed to Taitbout – was in the past sometimes attributed to Bougainville. A German translation appeared in 1783.

Only very few examples of the book include the frontispiece image "Vue de l'Isle de Otahiti" present here. It does not appear in the copy in the Hill collection, nor in most copies recorded in OCLC.

Barbier, II 234; Kroepelien, 1271; O'Reilly-Reitman, 9291.

Condition Report: A few spots, a tiny wormhole in some blank margins towards end, spine replaced but a very attractive copy in otherwise original state.

Price (AUD): $7,700.00

US$5,065.13   Other currencies

Ref: #5000368

Condition Report