Bibliotheca Asiatica is a series of reprints and some translations of books, both historic and recent past, containing first-hand descriptions and narratives by travellers in Asia, as well as research monographs and studies related to a wide range of aspects of Asian culture. Classified by country; this series includes a consolidation of the contents of the former series Bibliotheca Orientalis and Itineraria Asiatica.
||A Description of the Kingdom of Siam 1690
by Engelbert Kaempfer
1727, 1906, 1998. xx, 98pp., 10 engravings, one map. 19 x 13cm., softbound, hard slipcase.
ISBN-10: 974-8299-16-3 $18.00
The writer of this account of Siam in 1690, Engelbert Kaempfer, is not well
known today. This is partly because his account of Siam was not published
separately, but appeared as the first chapters of his ‘History of Japan’,
first published in 1727 and reprinted in 1906. The value of his account
lies in its being an account by a non-French, non-Catholic observer, who
did not side with any of the factions in Siamese society or seek to further
the Christian faith or European national interests in Siam.
||A Diplomat in Siam
by Ernest Satow C.M.G.
Introduced and Edited by Nigel Brailey
2000. 208 pp., numerous b & w sketches, 2 maps, index. 19 x 13 cm., softbound, hard slipcase.
ISBN-10: 974-8304-73-6 $23.00
Ernest Satow, British Minister-Resident, Bangkok, spent three months in
1885-86 travelling to and from Chiangmai, northern Thailand. Although his
official purpose was to iron out legal disputes over rights of access to
the teak timber trade, between Siam and British Indian and Burmese subjects
in the Chiangmai region, very little mention is made of this. Nevertheless,
his observations of the country he travelled through, the fishing and farming
activities, the forests and the ruined temples of the old capital of Sukhothai,
make this book a worthy contribution to our knowledge of the northern part
of late-19th century Siam that previously had been visited and written about
by few other Europeans. The book is also studded with his thumb-nail sketches
of objects and places that he found of interest. However, his loss of faith
in the Siamese judicial system, plus his contraction of malaria on the journey
did nothing to improve his disposition towards the Siamese people or their
customs, and his comments on both are quite uncomplimentary at times.
[Read a review]
||Journal Du Voyage De Siam
par L’Abbé de Choisy
1687, 1688, 1741, 1930, 1999. xliv, 292 pp., 16 pl., 19 x 13 cm., couverture imprimée, bôite.
ISBN-10: 974-8299-65-1 $23.00
En octobre 1685, le Roi Narai, qui régna de 1658 à 1688,
organisa une splendide cérémonie à l’occasion
de la rèception à Ayuthia d’une ambassade du Roi de
France, Louis XIV. Le chef de la mission française, le Chevalier
de Chaumont, était accompagné par l’Abbe de Choisy,
un membre distingué de l’aristocratie française, du
Jésuite Guy Tachard, du père Vachet de la Société
des Missions Étrangères de Paris, et de nombreux autres français.
L’arrivée de cette mission provoqua une vive animation, dans
la mesure où ces français comptaient parmi les premières
européens éducés a être reçus à
la Cour d’Ayuthia. Auparavant cette cour n’était entrée
en contact qu’avec des aventuriers ou des commercants, aux moeurs
plutôt rudes, et quelques missionaires, parmi lesquels rares étaient
ceux qui pouvaient rivaliser d’élegance, de politesse et de
sens de l’étiquette, avec les membres de cette ambassade.
Trois membres de l’ambassade ont publiés des livres sur cette
voyage: Guy Tachard (voir tome II) en 1686, Alexandre Chaumont en 1686/87
et l’Abbé de Choisy (voir tome VI) en 1687.
||Les Siam et Les Siamois
par E. Lunet de Lajonquière
Avec un préface à la réimpression par Guy Lubeight
1904, 1986. xx, 355 pp., 13 pl, une carte, 19 x 13 cm., couverture imprimée.
ISBN-10: 974-8299-85-6 $18.00
Lunet de Lajonquière n’était pas un quelconque visiteur du
Siam. Il connaissait parfaitement les traditions et coutumes du royaume
et de ces habitants, et ce d’autant plus qu’il en parlait la langue. A
tous les nouveaux venus en Thailande–et en Birmanie–Lajonquière
fournit un masse d’informations, de détails et d’anecdotes sur la
vie quotidienne dans le royaume siamois au début du XXe siècle.
Les villes, rivières, paysages, cultures, populations et administrations
rencontrés sont décrits toute au long de l’itinéraire
suivi par l’auteur, de Bangkok à Rangoon, entre le 12 octobre et
le 11 décembre 1904.
||Siam. The Land of the White Elephant
As it was and is
Compiled by George B. Bacon
Revised by F.W. Wells
With an Introduction to the new edition
1893, 2000. xii, 321 pp., 25 illustrations. 21 x 19 cm., softbound.
ISBN-10: 974-8304-74-4 $23.00
This is a compilation of descriptions of Siam from the end of the last
century. It contains excerpts and summaries of some well-known and some
practically unknown published and unpublished reports by travellers largely
sympathetic to Siam and the Siamese. An enjoyable and well edited volume,
with accompanying engravings.
An Account of the Country and the People
by P. A. Thompson
1910, 1987. x, 230 pp., 5 photographs, 1 col. plate, 19 x 13 cm., softbound.
ISBN-10: 974-8299-84-8 $18.00
P. A. Thompson was a British painter and member of the Royal Academy who
spoke Thai and travelled quite widely in Thailand at the very beginning
of this century. His account was published in Philadelphia, and is not
well known. The dates for his various journeys are not precise, and unfortunately
only one colour plate is included showing one of his paintings. But the
lack of pictorial material is well made up by the descriptions of his experiences
during his many excursions out of Bangkok.
||Temples and Elephants
by Carl Bock
With an introduction to the 1985 edition by H.K. Kuloy.
1884, 1985. xvi, 438 pp., 38 pl., 2 col. pl., 1 map, 19 x 13 cm., softbound.
ISBN-10: 974-8299-90-2 $18.00
Few were the Scandinavians who ventured into unknown Asia in the last century,
and even fewer took the trouble to document their travels or describe the
results of their explorations. Carl Alfred Bock, a Norwegian natural scientist,
was one of these intrepid travellers who published. His most famous work
is ‘The Head-Hunters of Borneo’ published in 1881 in Dutch and English.
His journey to northern Thailand and Laos had the support of H.M. King
Chulalongkorn, to whom the book is dedicated. Most of the material that
Bock collected--described in the book--is in London museums, but a few
items, including some bronze statues, are kept in the Ethnographic Museum
||Three Military Accounts Of The 1688 ‘Revolution’ In Siam
by Lieutenant General Desfarges, De La Touche, and J. V. des Verquains. Translated and edited by Michael Smithies.
2002 192 pp., 20 b&w illustrations, chronology, bibliography, index. 19 x 13 cm. Softbound.
ISBN-10: 974-524-005-2 $19.00
The coup d’état of 18 May, 1688 in the Siamese ‘Versailles’ at Lopburi
led to the establishment of the last Ayutthayan dynasty. But it was not
just another internal palace coup in face of the imminent death of the
reigning monarch, Narai. For the King’s favourite, Phaulkon, had been instrumental
in bringing a French expeditionary force into the country in October of
the previous year, which had secret orders to seize Bangkok, the ‘key of
the kingdom’, and Mergui, its chief port on the Andaman Sea. Phaulkon’s
original plan was to place Frenchmen in key positions in the country, perhaps
with a view to ruling through a pliant successor, but the unexpected appearance
of so many troops eclipsed that project and Phaulkon’s hold on power. The
powerful courtier, Petracha, head of the elephant corps, playing on nationalist
feelings, proceeded throughout 1688 to outmanoeuvre both Phaulkon and the
French. Phaulkon was killed on Petracha’s orders and the French were forced
to flee, eventually negotiating a treaty of surrender in Bangkok, before
they were allowed to leave. The French general, Desfarges, played treacherous
role in these affairs, abandoning Phaulkon at a crucial juncture and refusing
to give shelter to his widow in the French fort, largely because he wished
to keep the money Phaulkon had handed to him for safe-keeping before he
was betrayed. Desfarges left an account to justify his actions, hoping
to escape the rope on his return to France (he died beforehand). One of
the officers sent to Mergui, Lieut. de la Touche, also wrote an account
of events in this momentous year, describing the retreat from Mergui, his
being taken prisoner and tortured, and his eventual release and return
to Bangkok. The engineer in charge of the fortifications in Bangkok, des
Verquains, also wrote an account of events, rich in information concerning
the treachery of Desfarges, whom he hated, and his treatment of Phaulkon’s
widow. He goes on to describe the final ignomy of the French, being seized
on their return voyage, at the Cape of Good Hope and made prisoner by the
Dutch. These three illuminating texts have been brought together and translated
from the French for the first time, and throw a great deal of light on
the failure of the French to colonise Siam at the end of the 17th century.
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||Two Yankee Diplomats In 1830’s Siam
by Edmund Roberts and W. S. W. Ruschenberger. Edited with an introduction by Michael Smithies.
2002 232 pp., 19 x 13 cm. Softbound.
ISBN-10: 974-524-004-4 $19.00
The first American diplomatic mission to Siam was led by Edmund Roberts
in 1833; he attempted to secure better terms that the British Burney mission
of 1826 had obtained, but the ‘Treaty of Amity and Commerce between …(the)
King of Siam and … America’ which he concluded was much the same, reducing
the number of arbitrary charges on trade to a single tax. However, key
demands, like establishing an American consul in Bangkok and trading in
rice were rejected, and trade increased only slightly between the two countries
after the treaty was signed. Both Burney and Roberts were seeking concessions
which the conservative Third Reign saw no point in conceding. Still, the
treaty Roberts obtained was considered worth ratifying by the American
president and Roberts returned in 1836 to do this; soon after leaving Siam,
though, he fell ill, and died in Macau. It was William Ruschenberger, the
surgeon on his ship, who wrote and published the account of the second
journey to Siam. These two accounts have been brought together for the
first time, and provide fascinating insights into life in Bangkok in the
1830’s. Some scenes can still be seen today, but many have been swept away
by the tide of modernization which treaties with the Western powers were
to bring to the country.
[Read a review]
||Voyage to Siam
Performed by six Jesuits sent by the French King to the Indies and China in the year 1685.
by Guy Tachard With an introduction to the the reprint edition.
1688, 1981, 1985, 1999. xiv, 320 pp., 30 woodcuts and maps. 19 x 13 cm., softbound, hard slipcase.
ISBN-10: 974-8304-30-2 $18.00
King Narai had since the early 1670’s attempted to establish relations
with France, partly as a counterweight to English and Dutch influence in
and around Siam, partly as a means to facilitate his control over the burgeoning
coastal trade. In 1680, the first Siamese Embassy to Versailles was shipwrecked,
and a second envoy left in 1684, reaching France safely. In late 1685 the
Siamese envoys returned to Ayuthia, accompanied by a well appointed French
Mission led by Chevalier Alexandre de Chaumont and counting among its members
the Jesuit Guy Tachard, “the boudoir Abbé” de Choisy and
Father Vachet of the French Overseas Mission Society. While King Narai
was interested in expanding political and commercial relations, de Chaumont
single-mindedly pursued the conversion of the King to the Catholic faith,
ignoring advice from Abbé de Choisy to show discretion and restraint.
The mission was, not unexpectedly, a failure. Three members of the mission
published their version of the events: Chaumont, Choisy and Tachard (see
vols VI and VII below).