PYRARD DE LAVAL, François. Laval c. 1578 — Paris c. 1623. French Traveller in Maldives and India. Son of a trader. In May 1601 he sailed on Corbin one of the two ships equiped by the merchants of St.Malo, Laval and Vitré in order to compete with the Dutch E.I.C. in spice trade. Passing St.Helena and the Cape (December 1601) the ship was wrecked in the Maldives on 1.7.1602, where the survivors were allowed to live rather freely. Among them was Pyrard de Laval who studied local language and manners. In 1607 a Bengali ship from Chittagong came to capture the canon of Corbin. The Sultan was killed in the battle and the French were taken as prisoners to Chittagong, but soon released by the local raja. They sailed to Calicut, where they were welcomed as enemies of Portugal, but were then lured by Jesuits to Cochin, arrested and sent to Goa. After visiting Ceylon, Malacca and Hormuz as soldier Pyrard de Laval left Goa in 1610 and came via Cape and Brazilia to Spain and eventually to France in February 1611. After completing the first version of his book moved to Paris, where he was still living in November 1622.
With the exception of the Maldives, where his accurate observations are very valuable, he mainly travelled on well-trodden paths, which is said to diminish the value of his account. On the other hand he was a keen observer and learned Divehi and could thus converse with the islanders.
Publications: Discours du voyage des François aux Indes orientales, ensemble des divers accidents, adventures et dangers de l’autheur en plusieurs royaumes des Indes, etc. Traité et Description des animaux, arbres et fruits des Indes, etc., plus un bref avertissement et advis pour ceux qui entreprennent le voyage des Indes. P. 1611; another version ed. by P. Bergeron, Voyages des François aux Indes orientales, Maldives, Moluques et au Brésil, depuis 1601 jusqu’en 1611. 1-2. 738 p. P. 1615, rev. ed. P. 1619; further editions; English transl. of the 1619 ed. by A. Gray. The Voyage of François Pyrard, of Laval, to the East Indies, the Maldives, the Moluccas, and Brazil. 58+452 p. 11 ill. 1 map. Hakluyt Soc. 76, 77, 80. L. 1887.
Sources: Oaten 1909, 123ff.; L. Valensi, D.O.L.F. 790f.; Wikipedia (much longer in French version, with further references).
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