CHARDIN, Jean (Sir John Chardin)

CHARDIN, Jean-Baptiste (Sir John Chardin). Paris 16.11.1643 (Julian 6.11.) — Chiswick, London 5.1.1713 (25.12.1712). French Huguenot Jeweller and Traveller. Sent to the east by his father, the Parisian jeweller Daniel Ch. in 1664 he visited Persia (entering the service of Shah Abbas II in Isfahan), Surat and other places in India in 1667 and again Persia, returned to France in 1670. The situation there was very difficult for Protestants and soon he returned to the east, travelling via Smyrna – Istanbul – Black Sea – Mingrelia – Armenia to Isfahan, where he lived 1674-77 visiting many parts of the country. Then to India and finally by sea to London in 1681. He was now a wealthy man and remained there, becoming court jeweller and knighted (1681). In 1683 he entered the service of E.I.C., from 1684 its agent in the Netherlands for a few years, then devoted his time to writing and studies. Fellow of Royal Society 1682. In London he married 1681 a Normandian Protestant refugee, Esther de Lardinière Peigné, and had four sons and three daughters.

His travel book is a mine of information and anecdotes, although more on Persia than India. He spent long enough time to learn the language thoroughly, in addition he knew some Arabic, Turkish and Hindi. He is remarkably objective and shows a scholarly approach. He gave the first description of the ruins of Persepolis. He was much appreciated by Montesquieu, Rousseau, Gibbon and Sir William Jones. The planned vol. 4 containing a short Persian history and his diaries of 1675-77 never appeared. The information about his life is mainly obtained from his works and not always quite clear.

Publications: Le couronnement de Soleïman troisième, roy de Perse. 7+26+460 p. P. 1671, German transl. 1681, English as an appendix to his 1686 book.

Le journal du voiage du Chevalier Chardin en Perse et aux Indes orientales. 1. L. 1686, English transl. The Travels of Sir John Ch. into Persia and the East Indies. 417[=341]+154 p. L. 1686, Dutch 1687, German 1687, then complete French in 3 vols. Amsterdam 1711 (4°, also in 10 vols. 12°), then several editions, e.g. a commented ed. in 10 vols. by L.-M. Langlès in P. 1811 (with an atlas of 132 pl., now the standard edition), no complete English version.

Sources: J. Carnley, Literature of Travel and Explor. 1, 2003, 229-231; J.Emerson, Encyclop. Iranica 5, 1991, 369-377 (with further references); *A. Kroell, “Douze lettres de J.C.”, JA 170, 1982, 295-338; L. Valensi, D.O.L.F. 195; J. W[estby]-G[ibson], D.N.B. 10, 1887, 63f.; Wikipedia with portrait.

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