Bon voyage! New French-language travel history books in the University Library

As many of us resign ourselves to a 2021 ‘staycation’, how about taking the opportunity to travel through the UL’s French-language collections instead? A number of recent acquisitions conveniently explore travel history and narratives!

Trois hommes des Lumières à l’île de Gorée: Michel Adanson, Stanislas-Jean de Boufflers, Sylvain Meinrad Xavier de Golbery. By Christian Schoenaers. (L’Harmattan, 2020) C217.c.3243

Christian Schoenaers takes as his focus three 18th century French travellers who each penned accounts of their very different travels to the Ile de Gorée, Senegal: 

Botanist, Michel Adanson (1727-1806), was dispatched in the employ of the Compagnie des Indes, ostensibly to record the indigenous plants of Senegal and to send cuttings of them to France for the king’s garden. Despite official pressure to maintain secrecy, Adanson wrote both an account of his travels and associated botanical texts, such as Histoire naturelle du Sénégal (1757) and Familles naturelles des plantes (1763). He argued that plants should be named in indigenous languages rather than in Latin and, for this purpose, he learnt Wolof.

Map of Senegal, from Michel Adanson’s Histoire naturelle du Sénégal (1757) Source: Gallica

Stanislas-Jean de Boufflers (1738-1815) was a French statesman who served as governor of Senegal from 1785-7, doing much to promote the country’s economy. On return to France, he was admitted to the Académie française and became a published author and popular feature of Parisian salons. His correspondence with his future wife, including from his time in Senegal, was published posthumously in 1875 (Correspondance inédite de la Comtesse de Sabran et du chevalier de Boufflers (1778-1788)).


Captain in the French engineering corps, Sylvain Meinrad Xavier de Golbery (1742-82), was appointed first adjutant of Senegal in 1785. In his official capacity, he carried out research trips, from which he compiled the two volume Fragmens d’un voyage en Afrique (1802). His correspondence from this period was also published in 1791 under the title Lettres sur l’Afrique.

In addition to this newly acquired publication exploring the men behind the travel accounts, the University Library holds both modern and original editions of the three travellers’ works, such as:

Adanson’s Voyage au Sénégal, both a modern edition and an 18th-century translation

An early French edition of Stanislas-Jean de Boufflers’ posthumously-published Correspondance inédite

19th-century editions of Golbery’s Voyage en Afrique in both French and English

Some digitised early editions are also available on Gallica:

Histoire naturelle du Sénégal, Michel Adanson (1757)

Fragmens d’un voyage en Afrique, Sylvain Meinrad Xavier de Golbery. Tome I (1802)


Lettres berlinoises du petit-fils de Diderot à ses parents (1800-1801). Denis-Simon Caroillon de Vandeul ; édition et commentaire de François Moureau. (Presses de l’Université Paris-Sorbonne, 2021) C217.c.4404

This new edition, offering a Frenchman’s perspective of early 19th century Berlin, brings together the personal letters of Denis-Simon Caroillon de Vandeul (1775-1850) who acted as secretary to the French Embassy in Prussia from 1800-1801. De Vandeul was the grandson of Diderot, and his correspondence gives a sense of the latter’s impact on France and Prussia in the years after his death. He mentions meeting acquaintances of his late grandfather in Prussia, and recommends travellers to visit his mother in France on the basis of their connection to Diderot and his philosophy. Editor of this edition, François Moureau, is a Professor of History at l’Université Paris IV-Sorbonne, and Director of the Centre de recherche sur la littérature des voyages.


Échanges et métissage des cultures matérielles entre la Nouvelle-Aquitaine et les outre-mers (XVIIIe-XIXe siècles). Sous la direction de Michel Figeac; en collaboration avec Ludovic Balavoine. (Maison des sciences de l’homme d’Aquitaine, 2021) C202.b.5736

Taking a different angle on travel history, Figeac and Balavoine (both academics at the Université Bordeaux-Montaigne) explore how material culture travelled through the colonial contexts of 18th and 19th century France. Via a series of essays focusing on both French ports (such as Nantes and Bordeaux) and colonies (such as French Guiana, Guadeloupe and America) the book examines the way in which colonialist policies expanded the French economy on a global scale, whilst bringing previously unknown products to the Continent.


L’invention de la piraterie en France au Moyen Age. By Pierre Prétou (Presses universitaires de France, 2021) C217.c.4380

Focusing on the pre-colonial era, historian Pierre Prétou explores the reappearance of ‘piracy’ which accompanied the rise of French maritime power in the later Middle Ages. Through manuscripts and material culture, he reveals how references to Roman piracy were employed in 15th century France as the state fought to assert and maintain control over the seas.


Readers who choose not to travel vicariously through travellers’ accounts or associated history might prefer to travel through literature instead. The UL’s French Collections offer a wide range of Francophone texts from around the world. Search iDiscover here.


Seven volumes of the series Ecrivains marocains du monde by Najib Redouane and Yvette Bénayoun-Szmidt (L’Harmattan, 2019-), which look at Moroccan writers currently writing outside of Morocco, have just been purchased on the new Amalivre ebooks platform. Exploring works in a huge variety of languages, not only French and Arabic, the seven volumes published so far look at Canada, the United States, Egypt, Jordan, Israel, the Philippines, Brazil, Germany, England, Norway, Sweden, Switzerland, as well as Africa and the Indian Ocean more broadly. Access them online through iDiscover here.


We really hope you enjoy ‘travelling’ with the UL this summer – Bon Voyage!

Isobel Goodman

Leave a comment

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s