Bibliotheca Asiatica

Bibliotheca Asiatica is a series of reprints and some translations of books, both historic and recent past, containing first-hand descriptions and narratives by travellers in Asia, as well as research monographs and studies related to a wide range of aspects of Asian culture. Classified by country; this series includes a consolidation of the contents of the former series Bibliotheca Orientalis and Itineraria Asiatica.

Thailand Himalaya & Tibet Malaysia Korea
Burma China India Cambodia


A Description of the Kingdom of Siam 1690
by Engelbert Kaempfer
1727, 1906, 1998. xx, 98pp., 10 engravings, one map. 19 x 13cm., softbound, hard slipcase.
ISBN-10: 974-8299-16-3 $18.00
ISBN-13: 978-974-8299-16-7

The writer of this account of Siam in 1690, Engelbert Kaempfer, is not well known today. This is partly because his account of Siam was not published separately, but appeared as the first chapters of his ‘History of Japan’, first published in 1727 and reprinted in 1906. The value of his account lies in its being an account by a non-French, non-Catholic observer, who did not side with any of the factions in Siamese society or seek to further the Christian faith or European national interests in Siam.
A Diplomat in Siam
by Ernest Satow C.M.G.
Introduced and Edited by Nigel Brailey
2000. 208 pp., numerous b & w sketches, 2 maps, index. 19 x 13 cm., softbound, hard slipcase.
ISBN-10: 974-8304-73-6 $23.00
ISBN-13: 978-974-8304-73-1

Ernest Satow, British Minister-Resident, Bangkok, spent three months in 1885-86 travelling to and from Chiangmai, northern Thailand. Although his official purpose was to iron out legal disputes over rights of access to the teak timber trade, between Siam and British Indian and Burmese subjects in the Chiangmai region, very little mention is made of this. Nevertheless, his observations of the country he travelled through, the fishing and farming activities, the forests and the ruined temples of the old capital of Sukhothai, make this book a worthy contribution to our knowledge of the northern part of late-19th century Siam that previously had been visited and written about by few other Europeans. The book is also studded with his thumb-nail sketches of objects and places that he found of interest. However, his loss of faith in the Siamese judicial system, plus his contraction of malaria on the journey did nothing to improve his disposition towards the Siamese people or their customs, and his comments on both are quite uncomplimentary at times.

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Journal Du Voyage De Siam
par L’Abbé de Choisy
1687, 1688, 1741, 1930, 1999. xliv, 292 pp., 16 pl., 19 x 13 cm., couverture imprimée, bôite.
ISBN-10: 974-8299-65-1 $23.00
ISBN-13: 978-974-8299-65-5

En octobre 1685, le Roi Narai, qui régna de 1658 à 1688, organisa une splendide cérémonie à l’occasion de la rèception à Ayuthia d’une ambassade du Roi de France, Louis XIV. Le chef de la mission française, le Chevalier de Chaumont, était accompagné par l’Abbe de Choisy, un membre distingué de l’aristocratie française, du Jésuite Guy Tachard, du père Vachet de la Société des Missions Étrangères de Paris, et de nombreux autres français. L’arrivée de cette mission provoqua une vive animation, dans la mesure où ces français comptaient parmi les premières européens éducés a être reçus à la Cour d’Ayuthia. Auparavant cette cour n’était entrée en contact qu’avec des aventuriers ou des commercants, aux moeurs plutôt rudes, et quelques missionaires, parmi lesquels rares étaient ceux qui pouvaient rivaliser d’élegance, de politesse et de sens de l’étiquette, avec les membres de cette ambassade. Trois membres de l’ambassade ont publiés des livres sur cette voyage: Guy Tachard (voir tome II) en 1686, Alexandre Chaumont en 1686/87 et l’Abbé de Choisy (voir tome VI) en 1687.
Les Siam et Les Siamois
par E. Lunet de Lajonquière
Avec un préface à la réimpression par Guy Lubeight
1904, 1986. xx, 355 pp., 13 pl, une carte, 19 x 13 cm., couverture imprimée.
ISBN-10: 974-8299-85-6 $18.00

Lunet de Lajonquière n’était pas un quelconque visiteur du Siam. Il connaissait parfaitement les traditions et coutumes du royaume et de ces habitants, et ce d’autant plus qu’il en parlait la langue. A tous les nouveaux venus en Thailande–et en Birmanie–Lajonquière fournit un masse d’informations, de détails et d’anecdotes sur la vie quotidienne dans le royaume siamois au début du XXe siècle. Les villes, rivières, paysages, cultures, populations et administrations rencontrés sont décrits toute au long de l’itinéraire suivi par l’auteur, de Bangkok à Rangoon, entre le 12 octobre et le 11 décembre 1904.
Siam. The Land of the White Elephant
As it was and is
Compiled by George B. Bacon
Revised by F.W. Wells
With an Introduction to the new edition

1893, 2000. xii, 321 pp., 25 illustrations. 21 x 19 cm., softbound.
ISBN-10: 974-8304-74-4 $23.00
ISBN-13: 978-974-8304-74-8

This is a compilation of descriptions of Siam from the end of the last century. It contains excerpts and summaries of some well-known and some practically unknown published and unpublished reports by travellers largely sympathetic to Siam and the Siamese. An enjoyable and well edited volume, with accompanying engravings.
An Account of the Country and the People
by P. A. Thompson
1910, 1987. x, 230 pp., 5 photographs, 1 col. plate, 19 x 13 cm., softbound.
ISBN-10: 974-8299-84-8 $18.00
ISBN-13: 978-974-8299-84-6

P. A. Thompson was a British painter and member of the Royal Academy who spoke Thai and travelled quite widely in Thailand at the very beginning of this century. His account was published in Philadelphia, and is not well known. The dates for his various journeys are not precise, and unfortunately only one colour plate is included showing one of his paintings. But the lack of pictorial material is well made up by the descriptions of his experiences during his many excursions out of Bangkok.
Temples and Elephants
by Carl Bock
With an introduction to the 1985 edition by H.K. Kuloy.
1884, 1985. xvi, 438 pp., 38 pl., 2 col. pl., 1 map, 19 x 13 cm., softbound.
ISBN-10: 974-8299-90-2 $18.00
ISBN-13: 978-974-8299-90-7

Few were the Scandinavians who ventured into unknown Asia in the last century, and even fewer took the trouble to document their travels or describe the results of their explorations. Carl Alfred Bock, a Norwegian natural scientist, was one of these intrepid travellers who published. His most famous work is ‘The Head-Hunters of Borneo’ published in 1881 in Dutch and English. His journey to northern Thailand and Laos had the support of H.M. King Chulalongkorn, to whom the book is dedicated. Most of the material that Bock collected--described in the book--is in London museums, but a few items, including some bronze statues, are kept in the Ethnographic Museum in Oslo.
Three Military Accounts Of The 1688 ‘Revolution’ In Siam
by Lieutenant General Desfarges, De La Touche, and J. V. des Verquains. Translated and edited by Michael Smithies.
2002 192 pp., 20 b&w illustrations, chronology, bibliography, index. 19 x 13 cm. Softbound.
ISBN-10: 974-524-005-2 $19.00
ISBN-13: 978-974-524-005-6

The coup d’état of 18 May, 1688 in the Siamese ‘Versailles’ at Lopburi led to the establishment of the last Ayutthayan dynasty. But it was not just another internal palace coup in face of the imminent death of the reigning monarch, Narai. For the King’s favourite, Phaulkon, had been instrumental in bringing a French expeditionary force into the country in October of the previous year, which had secret orders to seize Bangkok, the ‘key of the kingdom’, and Mergui, its chief port on the Andaman Sea. Phaulkon’s original plan was to place Frenchmen in key positions in the country, perhaps with a view to ruling through a pliant successor, but the unexpected appearance of so many troops eclipsed that project and Phaulkon’s hold on power. The powerful courtier, Petracha, head of the elephant corps, playing on nationalist feelings, proceeded throughout 1688 to outmanoeuvre both Phaulkon and the French. Phaulkon was killed on Petracha’s orders and the French were forced to flee, eventually negotiating a treaty of surrender in Bangkok, before they were allowed to leave. The French general, Desfarges, played treacherous role in these affairs, abandoning Phaulkon at a crucial juncture and refusing to give shelter to his widow in the French fort, largely because he wished to keep the money Phaulkon had handed to him for safe-keeping before he was betrayed. Desfarges left an account to justify his actions, hoping to escape the rope on his return to France (he died beforehand). One of the officers sent to Mergui, Lieut. de la Touche, also wrote an account of events in this momentous year, describing the retreat from Mergui, his being taken prisoner and tortured, and his eventual release and return to Bangkok. The engineer in charge of the fortifications in Bangkok, des Verquains, also wrote an account of events, rich in information concerning the treachery of Desfarges, whom he hated, and his treatment of Phaulkon’s widow. He goes on to describe the final ignomy of the French, being seized on their return voyage, at the Cape of Good Hope and made prisoner by the Dutch. These three illuminating texts have been brought together and translated from the French for the first time, and throw a great deal of light on the failure of the French to colonise Siam at the end of the 17th century.

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Two Yankee Diplomats In 1830’s Siam
by Edmund Roberts and W. S. W. Ruschenberger. Edited with an introduction by Michael Smithies.
2002 232 pp., 19 x 13 cm. Softbound.
ISBN-10: 974-524-004-4 $19.00
ISBN-13: 978-974-524-004-9

The first American diplomatic mission to Siam was led by Edmund Roberts in 1833; he attempted to secure better terms that the British Burney mission of 1826 had obtained, but the ‘Treaty of Amity and Commerce between …(the) King of Siam and … America’ which he concluded was much the same, reducing the number of arbitrary charges on trade to a single tax. However, key demands, like establishing an American consul in Bangkok and trading in rice were rejected, and trade increased only slightly between the two countries after the treaty was signed. Both Burney and Roberts were seeking concessions which the conservative Third Reign saw no point in conceding. Still, the treaty Roberts obtained was considered worth ratifying by the American president and Roberts returned in 1836 to do this; soon after leaving Siam, though, he fell ill, and died in Macau. It was William Ruschenberger, the surgeon on his ship, who wrote and published the account of the second journey to Siam. These two accounts have been brought together for the first time, and provide fascinating insights into life in Bangkok in the 1830’s. Some scenes can still be seen today, but many have been swept away by the tide of modernization which treaties with the Western powers were to bring to the country.

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Voyage to Siam
Performed by six Jesuits sent by the French King to the Indies and China in the year 1685.
by Guy Tachard With an introduction to the the reprint edition.
1688, 1981, 1985, 1999. xiv, 320 pp., 30 woodcuts and maps. 19 x 13 cm., softbound, hard slipcase.
ISBN-10: 974-8304-30-2 $18.00
ISBN-13: 978-974-8304-30-4

King Narai had since the early 1670’s attempted to establish relations with France, partly as a counterweight to English and Dutch influence in and around Siam, partly as a means to facilitate his control over the burgeoning coastal trade. In 1680, the first Siamese Embassy to Versailles was shipwrecked, and a second envoy left in 1684, reaching France safely. In late 1685 the Siamese envoys returned to Ayuthia, accompanied by a well appointed French Mission led by Chevalier Alexandre de Chaumont and counting among its members the Jesuit Guy Tachard, “the boudoir Abbé” de Choisy and Father Vachet of the French Overseas Mission Society. While King Narai was interested in expanding political and commercial relations, de Chaumont single-mindedly pursued the conversion of the King to the Catholic faith, ignoring advice from Abbé de Choisy to show discretion and restraint. The mission was, not unexpectedly, a failure. Three members of the mission published their version of the events: Chaumont, Choisy and Tachard (see vols VI and VII below).