Voyage dans les Mers de l'Inde, fait par ordre du Roi, A l'occasion du Passage de Venus, sur le Disque du Soleil, le 6 Juin 1761, & le 3 du meme mois 1769 - Guillaume Joseph Le Gentil de la Galaisiere 1779 - Imprimerie Royale, Paris - First Editions ‘Two monumental volumes... crammed with details on astronomy, navigation, and natural history... His descriptions of life in Manila, Pondicherry, and Madagascar are invaluable’ (Dunmore).

A stunning set In contemporary bindings and illustrated with twenty seven folding copper engravings showing two world maps, maps charts and plans of Eastern and Western Philippines, Bay of Manila, Philippine Harbours, Manilla, Madagascar and it’s coastline, Isle de France (Mauritius), Isle de Bourbon (Réunion), Quartier S. Denis on Réunion, Eastern and Western Straits of Malacca, and Pondicherry. Together with engraved plates of animals and plant life, the ruins of Pondicherry, pagodas, Indian deities, and charts of comets and constellations.

‘In addition to the scientific details for which the voyage was undertaken, the first volume treats of the manners, customs, and religion or the people of the Malabar Coast and of the astronomy of the Brahmins. The second volume contains elaborate accounts of the Philippine Islands, Madagascar, Mauritius, and Bourbon and their inhabitants, including views and charts of the Philippines. Le Gentil gives details of the Islands, their climate, volcanoes, fertility, fruits, birds, animals, peoples, language, history, and description of Manila, the government, ecclesiastical and civil, commerce, &c.’ (Edwards).
  ‘Guillaume Joseph Hyacinthe Jean-Baptiste Le Gentil De La Galaisière (1725-92) was a renowned astronomer, elected to the French Royal Acadamy of Sciences in 1753.

The turning point in Le Gentil’s career was his commission to observe the 1761 transit of Venus at Pondicherry, India. Because the English had captured that settlement just as he arrived (in 1760), Le Gentil was obliged to witness the transit from shipboard, without any possibility for scientifically significant observations. Since another transit of Venus was to take place in 1769, Le Gentil resolved to remain in the East in order to complete his mission. He used the intervening years to collect vast amounts of material on Indian astronomy and to make numerous excursions, from Madagascar to Manila, during the course of which he amassed observations on a broad spectrum of phenomena.

Le Gentil’s major work was the two-volume Voyage dans les mers d’Inde… (1779-1781). The first volume was devoted to India and, after a discussion of the customs and religion of its inhabitants, dealt at considerable length with the history of Brahman astronomy. Le Gentil’s largely conjectural contention of that science’s great antiquity was disputed by many contemporaries and was rejected by virtually all later scholars. On the other hand, his personal astronomical observations—as well as those dealing with geography, meteorology, and physics—were securely based and of more lasting importance. His instruments having been verified at the outset, Le Gentil’s latitude and longitude determinations inspired confidence; his newly calculated table of refractions for the torrid zone, even without barometer and thermometer readings, was a decided improvement over existing values and a remarkable anticipation of later ones. His solstitial observations confirmed his earlier conclusions about the diminution of the obliquity of the ecliptic.

The second volume of the Voyage was devoted to the Philippines, Madagascar, and the Mascarenes. Except for the difference in locale, the absence of a historical section, and greater emphasis on geography and navigation, it conveyed the same sort of useful information as did the first.’ (Chapin) Pages 1-366 ‘are devoted to a description of the Philippines, based upon scientific investigations, principally at Manila... observations carried on from September 1766 - Feb. 1, 1768’ (Griffin).

Provenance: Joseph-Claude-Anthelme Récamier (1774-1852), famous Parisienne Doctor of Medicine, with his bookplates to each volume. In Récamier’s 1829 treatise
Recherches sur le Traitement du Cancer, he coined the term "metastasis" as a definition for the spread of cancer. Récamier was also a professor at the Collège de France, a member of the Faculté de médecine, and a pioneering gynaecologist.

References: Pardo de Tavera,
Biblioteca Filipina, 1510. Griffin, Bibliography of the Philippine Islands Part 1, 118. Phillips, Bibliography of the Philippine Islands Part 2, 103-7. Gay 3239. DSB VIII, 143-44. Henze, Enzyklopädie der Entdecker und Erforscher, III, 178. Dunmore I, 51-52. Edwards, Books, Pamphlets, Maps, Views, &c., 10469. Seymour L. Chapin, Complete Dictionary of Scientific Biography.

Two quarto volumes (binding size 25.8x20.6cm), pp. [2] xvi 707 [1] xiii (
Table des Matières) [1 (Addition à la page 62)] [2 (Fautes à corriger)] [13 leaves of folding plates] [2]; [2] xvi 844 xvi (Table des Matières) [3 (Fautes à corriger)] [1 (Avis au Relieur)] [14 leaves of folding plates] [2].
  In contemporary full glazed calf, spines lettered and intricately tooled in gilt, burgundy morocco spine labels, all edges stained red, marbled endpapers. Hinges, corners and spine ends finely restored.   Condition: Near fine, light toning and spotting to endpapers and title pages, volume I with small wormholes to some inner margins not affecting text, in near fine contemporary bindings with some restoration.   Ref: 107125   Price: HK$ 51,000