CHASSEBOEUF, Constantin-François.

CHASSEBOEUF, Constantin-François. Voyage en Syrie et en Egypte pendant les années 1783, 84 et 85

Paris, Courcier, Imprimeur-Libraire, 1807.


2 vols, 8vo. pp. [6] (x) 487 [1], [4] 492. Roman letter, a little italic. Separate t-p to each, publisher’s advertisement at opening of vol 1. Five extending foldout engraved pls. depicting ancient sites and a plan of the Temple of the Sun in Balbek. 3 foldout maps of Egypt, Syria and Turkey. Some foxing, browning to vol 1 (poor paper). Contemporary mottled sheep, spine gilt with some wormholes and wear to covers.

Constantin-François de Chasseboeuf’s (1757-1820) oeuvre, released upon his return in 1787, discussing the physical and political state of Egypt and Syria. He chose these as his subject because of ‘ce qu’elles furent jadis, et de ce qu’elles sont aujourd’hui’ and an interest in the state of the Ottoman Empire. Chasseboeuf explores the ancient sites, visiting the Sphinx and the Pyramids in Egypt, and Palmyra and Balbek in Syria, where he surveys the local histories, native inhabitants, and minorities. In Egypt, he focuses on the history of the Mamluk dynasty and of Ali-bek; in Syria he investigates the history of Daher, the pachalic distribution (including Palestine), and the religion and trade of each country. He discusses their climate, geography, meteorology, and natural history. The volumes exemplify the author’s interest in different cultures and nature he pursued in his academic studies.

Chasseboeuf then considers the state of commerce in the Levant based on the records of the Chamber of Commerce at Marseille. It details imports and exports, and studies Constantinople, Smyrna and other key cities in the Mediterranean. The second volume concludes with Volney’s 1788 publication on the war between Russia and the Turks. Having commented on the political state of two Ottoman provinces, Volney explores the implication of the outcome of the war, resulting in Russia’s extension of its border to the Black Sea. French relations with Russia are made evident in a letter dated 1789 and addressed to Baron Grimm, informing him of Volney’s return of the gold medal bestowed to him by Catherine II as a result of Russia’s alliance with France’s enemies. The following section covers Turko-Russian hostilities over the Crimea and considers the consequences of the conflict.

Chasseboeuf travelled in Syria and Egypt for around 4 years, where he visited nomadic tribes as well as cities and took great interest in local languages, learning Arabic while staying in a Lebanese convent. Not much was previously written about this area in the West, and the book was well received. It ran to 6 editions between 1787 and 1823. An interesting and comprehensive survey of the Near East at the end of the 18th C, and its foreign relation during this eventful period.

Blackmer 1067. Brunet 1351.