Exotic Depictions of Oceanic Peoples in Popular Books, c. 1775-1810

This article was published in Turnbull Library Record, 2012 (an annual peer-reviewed journal of the Alexander Turnbull Library, part of the National Library of New Zealand). It was based on my Master of Arts (Art History) thesis (2010), which is available in the Victoria University of Wellington library and in the National Libraries of New Zealand and Australia.

To Know the World from Home You Need Not Stray’: Exotic Depictions of Pacific Peoples in Popular Illustrated Books c.1775–1810 [i]

Vivienne Morrell

To know the world from Home you need not Stray;

Sit at your Ease, and ev’ry Clime Survey:

Here Empires, Kingdoms, States, and Realms are shown Men, Manners,

Customs, Arts and Laws made known:

Here ev’ry Page your Wonder shall excite,

And give Improvement, while it gives Delight. [ii]

The status enjoyed by travel books in our day is a continuation of the popularity they knew in the eighteenth century. In the Alexander Turnbull Library in Wellington there are many travel-related books from this period, including books showing national or regional costumes, books relating travellers’ accounts, and books describing foreign countries. Travel accounts, especially of voyages to the Pacific, have always been an important part of the Turnbull collections, building upon Alexander Turnbull’s own interest in this area. The travel genre is one that thrives on the new and the exotic. This article looks at how curiosity about ‘newly discovered’ peoples in the Pacific was handled in popular genres of long-standing, how European travellers represented Pacific (‘Oceanic’) peoples visually, and what this said about Europeans and their relationships with others.[1] The images of Oceanic peoples in these books were predominantly sourced from the art of Captain Cook’s three world voyages (1768–1771; 1772–75; 1777–80). While voyage art has been discussed by a number of art historians such as Bernard Smith and Rüdiger Joppien, the subsequent uses of the art in popular forms have not received as much attention. Examples of scholarship by Joppien, Martin Terry, and Roger Collins, mostly undertaken in the 1970s and 1980s, generally did not consider the Oceanic images in the wider context of other images in the books, or in relation to the text.[2] Popular French books of the time by Jacques Grasset de Saint-Sauveur (1756–1810), in particular, are usually seen as charmingly exotic and not very accurate, but according to art historian Perrin Stein, their lack of veracity should be seen as a hint that the artist’s interests lay elsewhere, rather than as a failing.[3]

This article looks at the images of Oceanic peoples in the context of the books as a whole, and with ideas of the exotic in mind. Did Oceanic discoveries challenge prevailing European views or were the people merely assimilated as the newest ‘savages’? To answer requires looking more widely than the art produced on James Cook’s voyages as source material. In most books the Oceanic peoples are included with those of the Americas, making it easy to fit them into existing prejudices about ‘savages’ and into existing pictorial conventions. An audience expecting to see grass skirts and feather headdresses would have found these images authentic – in fact, the depictions needed these features in order to appear authentic. These books would not have been so popular in their time without them. Yet, these exotic depictions are not harmless or naïve,– when seen in the context of the books as a whole, they would have contributed to and reinforced a European reader’s sense of superiority at a time when colonisation and missionary activity in Oceania were getting underway.

Genres, Books and their Reception

Travel accounts have a long history, and include descriptions of medieval pilgrimages and guide books written for pilgrims. However, the genre increased in popularity with the European ‘discovery’ of the Americas and more commercial voyages to Asia and the Americas. Costume books were popular in Europe, while the descriptions of countries (‘universal geographies’ or cosmographies) were popular in England. Universal geographies began in the sixteenth century and described continents, countries, and peoples, often depicted in ‘typical’ costumes. While the sixteenth- and seventeenth-century books included the New World of America, those of the later eighteenth century included the even newer world of Oceania, recently brought to the Europeans’ attention through the published accounts of English and French voyages. The universal geographies in this study were authored by Thomas Bankes et al, Charles Middleton, and George Millar published in 1790, 1777, and 1782 respectively.[4]

Costume books first appeared in the sixteenth century and increased greatly in number in the second half of the eighteenth century.[5] While Saint-Sauveur’s books can be considered within the costume book tradition (as they illustrate people in ‘typical’ costume), they provide broader information about peoples and their countries and therefore share some similarities with universal geographies.[6] The popularity of Saint-Sauveur’s books is indicated by their being referenced in other costume books (such as a Dutch book by Martinus Stuart, also in the Turnbull Library) and his images were the sources for a nineteenth-century geography book, as well as for scenic wallpaper designs and a set of 10 Limoges porcelain plates.[7] Saint-Sauveur appears to have both authored the text and designed at least some of the images; English books have different authors and artists (the designers and engravers are also usually different people). Rev. Thomas Bankes’s ‘Address to the Reader’ (1790) notes, in relation to the engravings, that the publisher ‘has undertaken the sole management of that department’.[8] Perhaps this is why the English books have more text and fewer illustrations than the French ones, and why more often the illustrations do not relate to the text in which they are placed. However, Saint-Sauveur was not the sole producer of his books – he did have collaborators, in particular etchers. But sometimes he sold the rights to a book and was not credited with any role at all.[9]. Unusually, the copy of Saint-Sauveur’s 1806 two-volume edition in the Turnbull Library has some original part covers bound in the back of volume two, as well as two receipts for payment (one showing Saint-Sauveur’s signature).[10] On the original covers is listed the price for each part – 3 livres in Paris; 3 livres 10 sous elsewhere. The six maps, which came separately, could be purchased uncoloured for 9 livres, or coloured for 12 livres.

Most popular travel books were organised geographically, usually by continent, but one of the English books presents recent voyages separately. When organised by continent, in all but one book, Oceanic peoples were included in the American section. Compared with the English books, the French books are more pleasing to the eye. The English books have much more text in relation to images, the text is small and closely spaced, and the images are uncoloured. Albeit, some French editions were uncoloured, and offered for sale at a cheaper price than those with coloured images; the images in the Turnbull Library copies are in colour. There is greater variety in the types of images in the English books – the universal geography genre allows more scope than the costume book genre, which imposes more uniformity, but this also means that the English books appear more eclectic than the French. The English books present images as if they were contemporary with each other – for example a single book may contain images from Cook’s voyages, Sir Walter Raleigh in Virginia, the Sultan Mahomet murdering Irene (an event from the fall of Constantinople in 1453, but performed as a play Mahomet and Irene in London in 1749), Caribbeans partaking in cannibal feasts and Animals of Maragnan (animals with human faces) – the latter two images originating in the sixteenth century. The frontispieces to the books are mainly allegories of the four continents. These also follow an iconographic tradition established much earlier and generally do not reflect recent events (such as American independence) that challenge these prevailing views. Little of the turbulent political times in which these books were published is reflected in the frontispieces or in the books’ introductions.[11]

Despite the authors’ frequent claims that their books contained new material and original work, images and often large amounts of text were copied from other sources. Claims of novelty were clearly exaggerated but must have been important in trying to catch a potential buyer’s attention. This desire for the new typifies curiosity about the exotic. For example, once ‘new’ peoples were ‘discovered’, interest in the old quickly waned – so, Oceania replaced America in the European imagination in the late eighteenth century – but there was no real desire to know these others in depth.

The rewriting of voyage literature to suit particular European interests was also common practice.[12] Academics from various disciplines have used theories of exoticism to interpret the ways Europeans have viewed ‘others’, especially in and since the eighteenth century.[13] According to such theories, it is the outside viewer, with their own standards, who interprets someone else as exotic. Taking or seeing other peoples and objects out of their natural context turns them into exotic curiosities. The exotic is a ‘lure’, but it is also elusive – it draws peoples’ interest, but never quite satisfies.[14] There is still a sense of this in some contemporary travel literature, where travellers are enticed to seek areas of the world and peoples that are ever more remote and supposedly untouched by Western ideas and lifestyles. Dissatisfaction may come from the apparent need to see the exotic in familiar terms, taming the unfamiliar and adding a measure of control; but once something is too familiar it no longer fulfils the desire for exotic difference. In an eighteenth-century example, when French naval captain Louis-Antoine de Bougainville (1729–1811) called Tahiti a ‘New Cythera’, he was seeing it in terms of the classical Aegean island associated with Aphrodite/Venus, and therefore with love.

For art anthropologist Peter Mason, the verisimilitude of exotic images derives from conforming to certain conventions rather than corresponding to objects and practices encountered in the field. These conventions include non-specificity, the evocation of European antiquity, and the assumption that the practices of lesser known peoples can be read from those who were better documented.[15] In fact, he argues that the tendency to exoticise goes hand-in-hand with the relative lack of attention to ethnographic specificity, and the further removed the exotic locale is in space and time from the reader, the greater its credibility.[16]

When incorporating images of Pacific peoples, the English universal geographies stayed fairly close to the source images, which were mainly taken from the published accounts of Cook’s voyages. However, Saint-Sauveur was more inventive with his images than the artists of the English books. He too used the Cook accounts as his main source for depicting Oceanic peoples, but when, for example, a full-body image was not available, he would combine elements from different images. For example, in his ‘Homme et Femme de l’Isle de Tanna’ (Man and Woman of Tanna) (an island in Vanuatu), the heads are based on two engraved head-and-shoulder portraits made on Cook’s second voyage by William Hodges, but some of the full-body elements are taken from a group of people in ‘View in the Island of Tanna’, after Hodges. In particular, Saint-Sauveur uses the pose of a man leaning on a club with one leg crossed over the other, and includes his arm-bands (or tattoos), but has also given him a leafy skirt, which only the women in Hodges’ ‘View’ wear. Did he include the skirt out of a sense of decorum, or because it would be more interesting in a costume book, or because grass skirts were expected items of exotica?

Some of Saint-Sauveur’s images have no obvious source in the Cook voyage accounts, even when a model was available. For example, while he uses the head of an engraving of Hodges’ ‘Man of Easter Island’ for his own ‘Homme de l’Isle de Paques’ (Man of Easter Island), his ‘Femme de l’Isle de Paques’ (Woman of Easter Island, Fig. 1) bears no resemblance to the engraving after Hodges. Whereas Hodges’ woman has a conical shaped hat and perforated ears, and is clothed, Saint-Sauveur’s woman wears a feathered headdress similar to that of the Easter Island man, does not have perforated ears, wears a different kind of necklace and has exposed breasts. Saint-Sauveur’s ‘Woman of Easter Island’ does, however, bear a strong resemblance to an American Indian woman illustrated in one of the English universal geographies – particularly in her pose and that of the child, and the basket she is carrying (Fig. 2), although the child’s basket has been replaced with a club.[17] Saint-Sauveur did not necessarily copy from Millar, but they probably shared a common source. Saint-Sauveur also depicts this woman in his 1806 edition as a woman of the Népissens. Although she is an American Indian woman, he does not give her a feather headdress as he does with the Easter Island woman.

Fig 1Fig 1 Fig 2Fig 2 (detail)

Figure 1: Hand-coloured etching, Jacques Grasset de Saint-Sauveur and J. Laroque, ‘Femme de l’isle de Pâques’, from Grasset de Saint-Sauveur, Paris, 1796, vol. 5, (ATL Ref R910.4 GRAS Ency 1796). Fig 1 is also online

Figure 2: Engraving, ‘Various dresses of the Indians of North America’, from George Millar, The new and universal system of geography (1782), London: Alexander Hogg, 16 Paternoster Row, 1782, fp. 793, ATL [detail], engraver: Thomas Morris (ATL Ref qREng MILL New 1782)Fig 2

We can speculate as to why Saint-Sauveur may have used some Cook voyage art as sources but not others. Possibly the editions he relied on did not include all the plates, or if he did have complete editions, he may have decided that some images were more suitable than others (such as the man of Easter Island but not the woman). His New Zealand women have no obvious sources in the Cook voyage art. Both his New Zealand girl and woman wear feather headdresses that could have come from an American Indian. His New Zealand girl (Fig. 3) holds a flower, possibly a rose, which seems somewhat incongruous with what appears to be a fish-head she wears on a necklace, but her pose is the same (in reverse) as that of his ‘Femme Tartar Tobolsk’ (Woman of Russian Tartary, Fig. 4). Most of Saint-Sauveur’s people, especially his women, have European faces, therefore clothing and adornments are needed to distinguish them. A feather headdress was perhaps the most typical attribute of the personification of the continent of America, and Oceania was at this time seen as an extension of America. As the images were coloured, which added to the cost, it is also likely that he wanted to include colourful objects such as feathers and flowers. But more importantly, adding features like a feather headdress or a mask where none existed in the source image not only made his images more exotic but made them more ‘authentic’ to their European audience. This is what they expected to see, and without them his books may not have been so appealing.

Fig 3Fig. 3 Fig 4Fig. 4

Figure 3: Hand-coloured etching, Jacques Grasset de Saint-Sauveur and J. Laroque, ‘Fille parée de la nouvelle Zeelande’, from Grasset de Saint-Sauveur, Paris, 1796, vol. 5, ATL. Fig 3 is also online

Figure 4: Hand-coloured etching, Jacques Grasset de Saint-Sauveur and J. Laroque, ‘Femme Tartar Tobolsk, from Grasset de Saint-Sauveur, Paris, 1796, vol. 3, ATL.

The Oceanic Images in Context

Information on Oceania had been acquired recently compared to that on many other countries, and we can ask if this makes a difference in presentation; do the text and images tell the same stories? Illustrated books continue earlier traditions – the South Sea islands were just the most recent exotic locations presented to charm the European imagination. Despite frequent appeals to satisfying curiosity, the books reveal only a superficial interest in other peoples: one that is mainly interested in contrasting ‘civilised’ Europe with less civilised or ‘savage’ others. In Saint-Sauveur’s books, all the images conform to certain pictorial conventions that allowed Oceanic peoples to be easily assimilated. His pictures emphasise clothing rather than physiognomy, so the people are depicted full length and their faces are usually nondescript. His images show generic types to represent a particular area, or occupations of an area. Apart from the wealthy (fashionably dressed) inhabitants of some European capitals, there is a sense of timelessness in his images.

A comparison between Saint-Sauveur’s couple from Housberg, near Strasbourg (Fig. 5) and New Zealand (Fig. 6) illustrates his pictorial conventions. The words above the New Zealanders – ‘Ameriq. Merid.; L’An 1806; Sauvages’ – indicate the continent in which they are located (Oceania being considered part of Southern America), the date, and the political status of the country. Since New Zealand at that time was not ruled by a single ruler such as a king, or a European power, New Zealanders were ‘savages’ (in common with the inhabitants of many other non-European places).

Fig 5Fig. 5 Fig 6Fig. 6

Figure 5: Hand-coloured etching, Jacques Grasset de Saint-Sauveur and Lachaussee jeune,Homme et femme de Housberg près Strasbourg’, from Grasset de Saint-Sauveur, Paris, 1796, vol. 1, ATL.

Figure 6: Hand-coloured etching, Jacques Grasset de Saint-Sauveur and Lachaussee jeune, ‘Homme & femme de la Nouvelle Zelande’, from Grasset de Saint-Sauveur, Paris, 1806, vol. 2, ATL.

The placement of the couples is similar, with the man on the right and woman on the left. The Housberg couple are well dressed in regional style, and the New Zealand couple are well dressed for ‘savages’ – perhaps because the man is loosely based on an engraving of a Maori chief by Cook’s first-voyage artist, Sydney Parkinson’s (c.1745–1771).[18] The backgrounds are fairly schematic: the Housberg image shows buildings typical of that part of France; the fact New Zealand is composed of islands is indicated by water and a canoe. The working woman behind the Housberg couple is echoed in the New Zealand scene by a man reaching up to a palm tree, probably representing the idea that ‘savages’ did not have to work for their food, just pick it off a tree – a common European assumption. The comparison here shows how relatively easy it was to fit the new Oceanic peoples into existing pictorial conventions.

A background or context is important, and Saint-Sauveur provides many of his European subjects with a background – buildings for his Parisians and Housberg couple, a harbour and ships for the Bordelais – but very little for many of the non-Europeans, apart from, for example, stylised tropical vegetation, such as a palm tree. His avoidance of detailed settings for non-Europeans tends to create a certain uniformity – all ‘savages’ share similarities – and, along with using similar poses for different peoples and combining elements from various sources, has the effect of homogenising images. There is little difference in his presentation of Oceanic peoples and some of the Americans – if it were not for the captions labelling their location, many could easily be substituted for American Indians (for example, see the similarity between the Californian woman (Fig. 7) and the Marquesan woman (Fig 8). Of course, these are not meant to be ethnographic portraits but show ‘typical’ costume and, to our eyes, few of his Oceanic peoples would seem authentic. Yet in conforming to the conventions of exotic representations such images would have achieved a certain authenticity for viewers of the time – it is likely that readers expecting to see grass skirts and palm trees would regard both of these images as truthful.

Fig 7Fig. 7 Fig. 8Fig. 8

Figure 7: Hand-coloured etching, Jacques Grasset de Saint-Sauveur and Labrousse, ‘Femme de la Californie’, from Grasset de Saint-Sauveur, Paris, 1796, vol. 5, ATL.

Figure 8: Hand-coloured etching, Jacques Grasset de Saint-Sauveur and J Laroque, ‘Femme des Isles Marquises’, from Grasset de Saint-Sauveur, Paris, 1796, vol. 5, ATL.

A comparison between the depictions of Oceanic and American peoples, on the one hand, and Europeans and some Asians, on the other, reveals a clear distinction. As well as being placed in a context, Saint-Sauveur’s Europeans are clothed differently and are more fully covered. The distinction in clothing appeared in the earliest costume books in the sixteenth century, where clothing was the main indication of differences between peoples – the widest gap being between the totally naked American Indian and the elaborately dressed European. The European’s dress signified rank, authority and civility, whereas the American Indians’ nakedness indicated the state of nature and a perceived lack of social order.[19] For Europeans, clothes were the visible signs of social standing and the theme of mistaken identity because of clothing was a common one in novels and plays.[20] Accessories were also an important part of dress, etiquette and courtship, as well as a demonstration of wealth and taste.[21]

The images, following iconographic traditions, do not simply illustrate the text. Regarding the illustrations for the official account of Cook’s first voyage, Bernard Smith has suggested that the engravers did not consciously set out to ennoble Tahitians, although this was often the effect – they probably believed, like others, that one ‘savage’ was very much like another – they sought rather to conform to the conventions of history-painting by suppressing anything in Parkinson’s drawings that seemed mean or peculiar.[22] The illustrated books studied here often used these engravings as sources, but also followed the conventions of their own genre traditions. Therefore, as is also the case with sections devoted to some other countries, the Oceanic island texts and images do not always convey the same messages. As most authors got their information on Oceania from the Cook voyages, they tended to follow the opinions expressed in those written accounts. Their views reflected preconceived ideas, as well as how the voyagers were received by the locals, and they served as an index to the ranking of peoples from sophisticated to primitive. Saint-Sauveur says of the New Zealanders – who are around the middle of the continuum:

These cannibals, who for the honour of humanity should be still unknown to us, prepare for war as a delicious feast … [But] by one of those dreadful contrasts that ignorance so often produces in savage people, these sanguinary monsters in time of war, practise in times of peace all the domestic and social virtues … they are of a modesty not very common in the savages.[23]

Yet, although Saint-Sauveur’s two 1796–edition New Zealand men carry weapons, his four New Zealand images taken together are hardly depicted any more ‘savagely’ than other Oceanic peoples.

The English authors’ texts, while based on the Cook accounts, are embellished with their own religious and moral sentiments and Anglocentric views. Whereas Saint-Sauveur occasionally reflects some views of the French Enlightenment (such as anti-religious and ‘noble savage’ sentiments), the English authors see European Christian values as universal. Rev. Thomas Bankes, for example, makes judgements on others but rarely attributes any blame to English travellers. Venereal disease is said to have been introduced to New Zealand by an unknown ship a few years before the Endeavour arrived; and, in Tahiti, Bougainville’s voyage is blamed for introducing it (although the English under Captain Wallis were there earlier).[24] A New Zealand boy, on being given alcohol by the English sailors, is said to have ‘exhibited a very just sample of the impatient temper of those people’.[25]

What is striking in the books is the longevity of some images and their continued use contrary to more recent information. One of the most aggressively depicted of Saint-Sauveur’s Oceanic peoples is the Marquesan Island man, shown with a slingshot and dagger, which does not come from the Cook voyage art, or Cook’s or Saint-Sauveur’s texts, which on the whole described the Marquesans as peaceful. It is also contrary to the ranking of the Marquesan people, in the Cook voyage accounts, near the top of the hierarchy of Oceanic peoples. It is likely the image pre-dates the Cook voyages and has continued to be used, despite the more recent information challenging this aggressive image. There seems to be no identifiable, specific source for the Marquesan man – except that his headdress is likely to be based on an engraving after Hodges. However, the Spanish ‘discovery’ of the Marquesas in 1595 involved much bloodshed, and Spanish accounts mention encountering weapons such as slingshots. In the English books, the Caribbean cannibals and Animals of Maragnan present similar examples of images having outlived their use-by date. Such images will often be at odds with the text they are meant to illustrate.

These books are an example of the European view of others at the beginning of European missionary activity and colonisation in the Pacific. After consulting Captain Bligh, the London Missionary Society chose Tahiti as its first place to send missionaries, in 1797. According to historian Rod Edmond, the ‘singular importance of the missionaries is perhaps the most distinctive feature of European colonisation of the Pacific’.[26] Exotic places and peoples helped Europeans to compare their society with others, but descriptions of exotic places tended to highlight what to Europeans was unusual. The authors of these books, especially the English ones, had no doubts about the superiority of Christian European civilisation over other forms of society – for example, Bankes’s ‘Address to the Reader’ explains the advantages readers (‘speculative enquirers’) will gain by reading his book:

And how engaging must it be to speculative enquirers to contemplate on the uncultivated mind, in various regions, where the absurdist prejudices usurp the place of reason, and cruelty, vice, folly, and tyranny are sanctified by the venerable name of religion. They [readers] will see how much they owe to education, to the embellishment of science, to the purity of our holy religion … and their brave ancestors for the system of religious and civil liberty handed down to them.[27]

A partial explanation for the popularity of this literature in its time could be that reading accounts of exotic travel was a way to escape from social, political and economic realities at home. But, also, comparison and categorisation were key methodologies of Enlightenment thinking, and other societies were compared to one’s own. For some of the voyagers, experience of Oceanic island societies caused them to question their own. While the exotic travel genre was also used, or parodied, by writers such as Jonathan Swift (1667–1745) and Denis Diderot (1713–1784), they used it to write about the kind of ideal society they would like at home, rather than about other peoples. No doubt people enjoyed reading about exotic places with unusual customs and warm climates, but at the popular level it is likely that most readers would have finished the books feeling that their civilised European ways had been affirmed as superior. And while Bernard Smith may have been right to argue that the art of Cook’s voyages helped bring about changes in European art right into the nineteenth century, at the level of the illustrated books discussed here, the economic imperatives of the book trade drove conservatism and the recycling of images. But, provided they were sufficiently ‘exotic’, this would not have mattered to most readers as they surveyed the world without straying from home.


Popular illustrated travel books of the eighteenth century are overlooked today because they are derivative and their images are not ethnographically accurate. Yet they were bestsellers among the middle classes in their time. They represent a conservative Eurocentric viewpoint, and their inclusion of new material from Oceanic voyages did not challenge this view. The images tend to follow genre traditions and were often sourced from pre-existing illustrations, rather than from the latest available source. The images therefore sometimes tell a different story from the text, and were used as much to please the eye as to present information (or as Middleton writes in the epigraph to this article: ‘give Improvement, while it gives Delight’).

While some of the more racist and derogatory comments made in the texts are not conveyed in the images, the images are not simply charmingly exotic and benign. They certainly convey a sense of Europeans as better dressed and more ‘civilised’ than others. Images and texts such as these likely reinforced European views of their own superiority and made it easier to justify missionary activity and colonisation in various parts of the world, particularly Oceania. The books today tell us more about European attitudes than about ‘others’, but already, even in the eighteenth century, the French philosopher Jean-Jacques Rousseau, the most celebrated mouthpiece for the notion of the ‘noble savage’, had noted:

For the three or four hundred years since the inhabitants of Europe inundated the other parts of the world, and continually published new collections of travels and stories, I am convinced that we know no other men but the Europeans alone.[28]

2015 update

I recently discovered that Wikimedia.org has digitised 476 of Grasset de Saint-Sauveur’s images (click here). This would have been a useful resource for my MA but wasn’t available then. Nevertheless, I still would have wanted to look at the actual books, especially as I wanted to see if the text and accompanying image ‘told the same story’. I acknowledge the website resobscura for including this link. And, for anyone, like me, interested in art / history, you might like to check out the Public Domain Review. …And that website was drawn to my attention by Lissa Mitchell’s post (Te Papa’s curator of historical photography) on autochrome photographs.

List of illustrations – Abbreviations

ATL – Alexander Turnbull Library, Wellington, New Zealand.

‘Grasset de Saint-Sauveur, Paris, 1796’ – Grasset de Saint-Sauveur, Jacques, Encyclopédie des voyages: contenant l’abrégé historique des moeurs, usages, habitudes domestiques, religions, fêtes supplices, funérailles, sciences, arts, et commerce de tous les peuples, Paris: Se trouve chez l’Auteur, rue Nicaise, maison de la Section des Tuileries. Chez Deroy, libraire, rue du Cimitière-Andre no. 15. Et chez les principaux libraires de la République, 1796, 5 vols, ATL. Ref: R910.4 GRAS Ency 1796

‘Grasset de Saint-Sauveur, Paris, 1806’ – Grasset de Saint-Sauveur, Jacques, Voyages pittoresques dans les quatre parties du monde, ou troisième édition de l’encyclopédie des voyages: contenant les costumes des principaux peuples de l’Europe, de l’Asie, de l’Afrique, de l’Amérique et des sauvages de la mer du sud, gravés et coloriés avec soin … Paris: Chez Madame veuve Hocquart, 1806, 2 vols, ATL Ref P 910.4 GRA 1806).

Original French orthography has been retained.


[i] I gratefully acknowledge the comments made by David Maskill and Stella Ramage, Victoria University of Wellington Art History Department, on drafts of this article.

[ii] Quotation from the title page of Charles Theodore Middleton, A New and Complete System of Geography, London: J. Cooke, 1777, vol. 1.

[1] This article has been developed from my Master of Arts thesis ‘“To the Curious Enquirer”: Depictions of Pacific Peoples in Popular Illustrated Books from Paris and London c. 1775–1810’, Victoria University of Wellington, 2010

[2] See Rüdiger Joppien, ‘The Artistic Bequest of Captain Cook’s Voyages—Popular Imagery in European Costume Books of the Late Eighteenth and Early Nineteenth Centuries’, in Robin Fisher and Hugh Johnston (eds), Captain Cook and his Times, Vancouver & London: Douglas & McIntyre/ Croom Helm, 1979; Martin Terry, ‘The Voyages of Captain Cook: A Pacific Theme in French Decorative Arts’, The French-Australian Cultural Connection: Papers from a Symposium held at the University of New South Wales, 16–17 September 1983, School of French, University of NSW and CEEFA, 1984; Roger Collins, ‘An Inside Story: Dufour and Charvet’s Wallpaper of the South Seas’ Bulletin of New Zealand Art History, 9, 1985, pp. 5–13 and Roger Collins ‘The Maori as Seen by French Artists’ in John Dunmore (ed) The French and the Maori, Heritage Press, 1992, pp. 153–163.

[3] Perrin Stein, ‘Exoticism as Metaphor: Turquerie in Eighteenth-Century French Art’, PhD thesis, New York University, 1997, p. 4.

[4] Rev Thomas Bankes, with E. Blake, A. Cook, and T. Lloyd, New, Royal and Authentic System of Universal Geography … Europe, Asia, Africa and America … [and] Collection of Voyages and Travels, London: C. Cooke, 17 Paternoster Row; 1790. Charles Middleton, A New and Complete System of Geography Containing a Full, Accurate, Authentic and Interesting Account and Description of Europe, Asia, Africa and America … Including the Essence of all the most Remarkable Voyages and Travels …, 2 vols, London: J. Cooke, 17 Paternoster Row, 1777. George Henry Millar, The New and Universal System of Geography …, London: Alexander Hogg, 16 Paternoster Row, 1782.

[5] Daniel Roche, [1989] The Culture of Clothing: Dress and Fashion in the Ancien Regime, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, translated by Jean Birrell, 1994, pp. 11 & 12.

[6] I saw partial or complete copies of Jacques Grasset de Saint-Sauveur’s costume book editions of 1784, 1788, 1793, 1795, 1796, 1798/99, and 1806; some at Turnbull Library and some in Australia. Turnbull holds complete copies of the 1796 and 1806 editions, which were my main sources: Encyclopédie des voyages: contenant l’abrégé historique des moeurs, usages, habitudes domestiques, religions, fêtes supplices, funérailles, sciences, arts, et commerce de tous les peuples…dessines d’après nature, graves avec soin et colories a l’aquarelle. 5 vols, Paris: se trouve chez l’Auteur, …; chez Deroy, libraire…; et chez les principaux libraires de la République, 1796. Jacques Grasset de Saint-Sauveur, Voyages pittoresques dans les quatre parties du monde, ou troisième édition de l’encyclopédie des voyages: contenant les costumes des principaux peuples de l’Europe, de l’Asie, de l’Afrique, de l’Amérique et des sauvages de la mer du sud, … 2 vols, Paris: chez Madame veuve Hocquart, 1806. The 1796 edition has Alexander Turnbull’s bookplate in it.

[7] Martinus Stuart and Jacques Kuypers, De mensch, zoo als hij voorkomt op den bekenden aardbol, Amsterdam: Johannes Allart, 1802–1807 6 vols, ATL. La Géographie en estampes ou moeurs et costumes des différens peuples de la terre, Paris, 1825, chez Lecerf, graveur, et Pre Blanchard, ATL. The Limoges plates: first quarter of 19th century, Musée national de la porcelaine Adrien Dubouché, Limoges; three illustrated in D’un regard l’autre: histoire des regards européens sur l’Afrique, l’Amérique et l’Océanie, Paris: Musée du Quai Branly, exhibition catalogue under the direction of Yves Le Fur, 2006, p.140. The scenic wallpaper is discussed in a number of books or articles – the most comprehensive in English being: Les sauvages de la mer Pacifique, Sydney/Canberra: Art Gallery of NSW/ National Gallery of Australia, 2000.

[8] Rev Thomas Bankes, ‘Address to the reader,’ in New, Royal and Authentic System of Universal Geography, unpaginated.

[9] For example, the 1788 edition is credited solely to P. Sylvain Maréchal.

[10] Roger Collins has discussed the publishing history of Saint-Sauveur’s books in ‘Jacques Grasset de Saint-Sauveur’, Turnbull Library Record, 17(1) May 1984, pp. 28–41

[11] Chapter three of my thesis discusses the frontispieces in more detail. [See also my post here for an abbreviated version]

[12] Jane Elliott, ‘The Choosers or the Dispossessed? Aspects of the Work of Some French Eighteenth-Century Pacific Explorers’, in Annick Foucrier (ed), The French and the Pacific world, 17th–19th Centuries, Aldershot & Burlington: Ashgate, 2005, pp. 284–285.

[13] For example, see historians: George Rousseau and Roy Porter, (eds), Exoticism in the Enlightenment, Manchester: Manchester University Press, 1990; art historians: Bernard Smith, Imagining the Pacific: in the Wake of the Cook Voyages, Melbourne: Melbourne University Press at the Miegunyah Press, 1992; literary and cultural theorists: Tzvetan Todorov, On Human Diversity: Nationalism, Racism, and Exoticism in French Thought, translated by Catherine Porter, Cambridge, Mass & London: Harvard University Press, 1993; Roger Célestin, From Cannibals to Radicals: Figures and Limits of Exoticism, Minneapolis & London: University of Minnesota Press, 1996.

[14] Peter Mason, Infelicities: Representations of the Exotic, Baltimore & London: Johns Hopkins University Press, 1998, pp. 152–3.

[15] Peter Mason, ‘Ethnographic Portraiture in the Eighteenth Century: George Psalmanaazaar’s Drawings of Formosans’, Eighteenth-Century Life, 23(3), 1999, pp. 58–76.

[16] Peter Mason, 1999, p. 71.

[17] Illustrated in Millar, The New and Universal System of Geography, 1782, facing page 793.

[18] Engraving by Thomas Chambers after Sydney Parkinson, A New Zealand Warrior in his Proper Dress & Completely Armed to their Manner, engraving, from Sydney Parkinson, A Journal of a Voyage to the South Seas, 1773.

[19] Olive Dickason, The Myth of the Savage and the Beginnings of French Colonialism in the Americas, Edmonton: University of Alberta Press, 1984.

[20] Eileen Ribiero, Dress in Eighteenth-Century Europe, New Haven & London: Yale University Press, 2002, p. 168.

[21] Ribiero, p. 159.

[22] Smith, Imagining the Pacific, 1992, p 176 and 178.

[23] Saint-Sauveur, Sauvages de la Nouvelle Zelande, in Encyclopedie des Voyages, vol 5, pp. 5, 6.

[24] Bankes’s references to venereal disease: NZ p. 17; Tahiti p. 50.

[25] Bankes, 1790, p 16.

[26] Rod Edmond, Representing the South Pacific: Colonial Discourse from Cook to Gauguin, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1997, p. 13.

[27] Bankes, ‘Address to the reader’, np.

[28] Jean-Jacques Rousseau, The Basic Political Writings … Discourse on the Origins of Inequality, [1755] translated and edited by Donald Cress, Indianapolis & Cambridge: Hackett Publishing, 1987, Rousseau’s notes to part 1, note 10, p. 99.


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