Jean De Thevenot - Encyclopedia

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JEAN DE THEVENOT (1633-1667), French traveller in the East, was born in Paris on the 16th of June 1633, and received his education in the college of Navarre. The perusal of works of travel moved him to go abroad, and his circumstances permitted him to please himself. Leaving France in 1652, he first visited England, Holland, Germany and Italy, and at Rome he fell in with D'Herbelot, who invited him to be his companion in a projected voyage to the Levant. D'Herbelot was detained by private affairs, but Thevenot sailed from Rome in May 1655, and, after vainly waiting five months at Malta, took passage for Constantinople alone. He remained in Constantinople till the end of the following August, and then proceeded by Smyrna and the Greek islands to Egypt, landing at Alexandria on New Year's Day, 1657. He was a year in Egypt, then visited Sinai, and, returning to Cairo, joined the Lent pilgrim caravan to Jerusalem. He visited the chief places of pilgrimage in Palestine, and, after being twice taken by corsairs, got back to Damietta by sea, and was again in Cairo in time to view the opening of the canal on the rise of the Nile (on the 14th of August 1658). In January 1659 he sailed from Alexandria in an English ship, taking Goletta and Tunis on the way, and, after a sharp engagement with Spanish corsairs, one of which fell a prize to the English merchantman, reached Leghorn on the 12th of April. He now spent four years at home in studies useful to a traveller, and in November 1663 again sailed for the East, calling at Alexandria and landing at Sidon, whence he proceeded by land to Damascus, Aleppo, and then through Mesopotamia to Mosul, Bagdad and Mendeli. Here he entered Persia (the 27th of August, 1664), proceeding by Kermanshah and Hamadan to Isfahan, where he spent five months (October 1664 - February 1665), and then joining company with the merchant Tavernier, proceeded by Shiraz and Lar to BanderAbbasi, in the hope of finding a passage to India. This was difficult, because of the Opposition of the Dutch, and though Tavernier was able to proceed, Thevenot found it prudent to return to Shiraz, and, having visited the ruins of Persepolis, made his way to Basra and sailed for India on the 6th of November 1665, in the ship "Hopewell," arriving at the port of Surat on the 10th of January 1666. He was in India for thirteen months, and crossed the country by Golconda to Masulipatam, returning overland to Surat, from which he sailed to Bander-Abbasi and went up to Shiraz. He passed the summer of 1667 at Isfahan, disabled by an accidental pistolshot, and in October started for Tabriz, but died on the way at Miyana on the 28th of November 1667.

Thevenot was an accomplished linguist, skilled in Turkish, Arabic and Persian, and a curious and diligent observer. He was also well skilled in the natural sciences, especially in botany, for which he made large collections in India. His personal character was admirable, and his writings are still esteemed, though it has been justly observed that, unlike Chardin, he saw only the outside of Eastern life. The account of his first journey was published at Paris in 1665; it forms the first part of his collected Voyages. The licence is dated December 1663, and the preface shows that Thevenot himself arranged it for publication before leaving on his second voyage. The second and third parts were posthumously published from his journals in 1674 and 1684 (all 4to). A collected edition appeared at Paris in 1689, and a second in 12mo at Amsterdam in 1727 (5 vols.). There is an indifferent English translation by A. Lovell (fol., London, 1687).

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