London: F.L. for Tho. Horne, Francis Saunders, and Tho. Benner, 1693. First English edition. Hardcover. The account of de La Loubere's embassy to Siam on behalf of Louis XIV, considered to be the best account of Thailand of the time, praised by Gottfried Leibniz as containing solid truths and research of great consequence. The copy retains a heraldic bookplate and the chop of the south Manchuria Railway Library.
The account was first published in France in 1691, but only in duodecimo, not in folio. It was still influential at the time of de La Loubere's death, praised as the best example of works of its kind by the chancellor of the Academie Francaise. It remains an important source on 17th century Siam, as the archives of the country were destroyed by fire in 1767.
De La Loubere (1642 – 1729) traveled to the court of the King of Siam in 1687-1688, to observe that country "as exactly as possible". He was sent by the Sun King in the hopes of trade links, counterbalancing Dutch influence and converting the Siamese to Catholicism. When Louis XIV received the Siamese embassy at Versailles in the newly constructed Hall of Mirrors, he was dressed in a gem covered garment and seated on a diamond encrusted cushion. He was accompanied by the director of the French East India Company. The embassy was received in Bangkok by Ok-khun Chamnan Chiachong, a Siamese diplomat. The French negotiated a new commercial treaty during their short stay, but anti-French sentiment was growing in the Siamese court over the occupation of Bangkok. Shortly after de La Loubere's departure, Siam experienced a revolution which deposed the king, overthrew the French garrison and closed Siam to France for the next 150 years.
De La Loubere's account is a comprehensive description of the Siamese civilization, with detailed descriptions of a wide range of topics, including the language, religion, customs & occupations of the people, marriage, divorce & education, medicine, mathematics, music, and foreigners in Siam. The mathematics of the title refers to a mathematical solution de La Loubere learned of in Siam, known as the 'De La Loubere Method', an easy method for making any size "magic squares" in which the sums of all rows, columns and diagonals are identical. In the second volume of the two bound together, there is a also a description of the Cape of Good Hope, with engraved views of Table Mountain, a Dutch factory, and a Hottentot family.
Bookplate of early owner with armorial crest "Libertas" with a crowned rampant lion and facing bull, and manuscript '2797', at the front paste down. Title page has Chinese wood block in red (chop), verso, with red block stamp with ink manuscript numbers, indicating that the volume belonged to the South Manchuria Railway Library.
Two folio volumes bound in one. Vol I (iv), 143pp, (1 blank), 2 maps, 6 full page engraved plates. Vol II, 145-260pp, 3 full page engraved plates. The plates illustrate Thai life including native plants, local dress, floor plans of temples and palaces, the king's ceremonial vessels, Siamese music, sculpture, Siamese alphabet, chess, and smoking. Title page credits the translation as "Done out of French, by A. P. Gen. R. S.S."
Small folio in full original brown leather with smooth center panel with blind tooled border & decorations at corners, surrounded by leather of a deliberately textured grain. Spine sympathetically rebacked with tan leather, raised bands and original title label. OCLC: 220779409 records 5 copies. Cordier Indosinica 723. Wing L201. Very good condition. Item #22734