Paris, Saillant & Nyon, 1771. 4to. Near contemp. hcalf. Gilt spine with gilt lettering. Very light wear along edges. Stamps on title-page. (8, incl. htitle),417,(1) pp., 20 engraved maps and charts (numb. 1-19 + 16 bis) of which 18 are folded, including the large world map. 2 engraved plates (numb. 1-2). Internally clean and fine, a few leaves with marginal brownspots.
First edition of this famous circumnavigation, being the first voyage around the world with professional naturalists and geographers onboard. Bougainville was the first Frenchman to sail around the world.
In 1771, Bougainville published his travel log from the expedition under the title "Le voyage autour du monde, par la frégate La Boudeuse, et la flûte L'Étoile". The book describes the geography, biology and anthropology of Argentina (then a Spanish colony), Patagonia, Tahiti and Indonesia (then a Dutch colony). The book was a sensation, especially the description of Tahitian society. Bougainville described it as an earthly paradise where men and women lived in blissful innocence, far from the corruption of civilisation.
Bougainville's descriptions powerfully expressed the concept of the noble savage, influencing the utopian thoughts of philosophers such as Jean-Jacques Rousseau before the advent of the French Revolution. Denis Diderot's book Supplément au voyage de Bougainville retells the story of Bougainville's landing on Tahiti, narrated by an anonymous reader to one of his friends. Diderot used his fictional approach, including a description of the Tahitians as noble savages, to criticise Western ways of living and thinking.