TAVERNIER, Jean Baptiste

TAVERNIER, Jean Baptiste (1669 baron d’Aubonne). Paris 1605 — Moscow (?) 1689. French Jeweller and Traveller in India. Son of Gabriel T., a Huguenot merchant and geographer, originally from Antwerp, and Suzanne Tonnelier. Early travels in England, Netherlands, Germany, Poland, Italy and Hungary. Some time served in Austrian army. Also worked as guide and translator as he had learned several European languages.

He made six travels to Asia: I. 1631 to Constantinople and Persia. II. 1638 Marseille–Alexandretta–Aleppo–Isfahan (May 1639) and in winter 1641 to India (Dacca, Agra, Surat, Burhampur, Ahmedabad, Goa, Golconda, no details known, but visited the diamond mines) and back to France. III. 1643 from Paris, 1645 arrived in India and spent three years there, 1648 from Goa to Batavia and 1649 in Dutch ship via Cape to Europe. IV. 1652 by land to Bandar Abbas, in July 1652 Masulipatam, then St. Thomé–Golconda–Surat–Ahmedabad, etc., in Dutch ship from Surat to Bandar Abbas and 1655 to Paris. V. 1657 from Paris to Italy and again by land to Isfahan. Remained there until 1659 (as India was too troubled during the illness of Shah Jahan), then to South India and back home. VI. 1663 via Tabriz to Isfahan, where he worked as court jeweller to the Shah, in 1665 to Surat, then Burhanpur–Gwalior–Agra–Jahanabad (met Aurangzeb in fall 1665), together with Bernier to Allahabad–Benares–Patna–Bengal, back alone Dacca–Patna–Agra–Surat (met Thévenot in November 1666), in winter 1667 to Bandar Abbas (met Chardin there) and in fall 1668 to Paris.

Knighted 1669 Tavernier bought the manor of Aubonne near Geneva and lived as wealthy private writing his famous travel account which shows him as a keen observer (although he knew not the languages) and is thus an important source for the period. As Huguenot, he soon met difficulties because of the religious policy of Louis XIV. In 1684 he visited Brandenburg, then sold his manor and settled in Paris. In 1687 he moved to Switzerland and finally via Denmark to Russia. It is claimed that he still planned a new travel to Persia and India. Married 1662 Madeleine Gosse.

He gave a detailed description of countries he saw, but told very little of his own life. He also refrained from the then common philosophizing and generalizing (of which he was criticized by some contemporary readers).

Publications: Nouvelle relation du serrail du Grand-Seigneur. 1-2. P. 1675.

Les six voyages de J. B. Taviernier. 1-2. P. 1676 and many editions, English by John Philips 1677, new transl. by V. Ball. 1-2. 1889, 2nd ed. by W. Crooke 1925, also in German, Dutch and Italian.

Recueil de Plusieurs Relations. P. 1679.

Sources: Ball’s introduction to the English edition of his work (based on Joret); *Ch. Joret, J.-B.T. d’aprés des Documents Nouveaux. P. 1886(additional information by him in *Revue de géogr. 12, 1889, 161-174, 267-275, 328-341); K. Karttunen, Literature of Travel and Explor. 3, 2003, 1163f.; *Ronan Moreau, “À dos d’éléphant, du Cachemire aux mines de Golconde. Récits de voyageurs européens au XVIIe siècle”, JA 301, 2013, 435-446 (Bernier & Tavernier); Oaten 1909, 185-192; L. Valensi, D.O.L.F. 916f.; Wikipedia with two portraits (from his work).

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