Astronomy and Crocodiles in Thailand

Goüye, Thomas. Observations physiques et mathematiques pour servir à l’histoire naturelle & à la perfection de l’Astronomie & de la geographie: envoyées de Siam à l’Academie Royale des Sciences à Paris, par les Peres Jesuites françois qui vont à la Chine en qualité de mathematiciens du Roy: avec les reflexions de messieurs de l'Académie, & quelques notes de P. Goüye, de la Compagnie de Jésus. [Physical and mathematical observations to serve natural history & the perfection of astronomy & geography: sent from Siam to the Royal Academy of Sciences in Paris, by the French Jesuit Fathers who go to China as the King’s mathematicians… ]

❧ Paris: la Veuve d’Edme Martin, Jean Boudot, & Estienne Martin, 1688. 210 by 140mm (8.25 × 5.5 inches). 8 vo. [8], 278, [6] pp. With the leaf of approbation and the 2 leaves of index at back. First edition. Original mottled calf, gilt spine in six compartments. In French. With 3 copper engraved folding plates, illustrating the author’s dissection of a crocodile. Very Good. Spine extremities worn. Front hinge professionally repaired. Front free endpaper lacking. Small paper repair on a blank portion of the title, likely removing the name of a previous owner, and a small repair at the bottom blank margin of pp. 3334; further, small repair to 2 plates, not affecting the illustrations. Some occasional light text foxing.

The French Jesuits sent to China in 1685 went via Siam (the country now known as Thailand) and from there wrote to the Académie des Sciences in Paris about their scientific observations made during the voyage and while in Thailand. This is the scarce first edition of Jesuit missionary and astronomer Thomas Goüye’s (1650–1725) first book. He makes observations on the animals of Thailand, on eclipses, mathematical calculations of latitude & longitude, and geography.

This book is a testament of the Jesuit commitment to the Academy of Sciences as an institution. Goüye was professor of mathematics at the Jesuits’ Parisian college and wrote the book to highlight the Jesuits’ work for the Academy. The first section is devoted to natural history — for example, anatomical descriptions of crocodiles that are depicted on the plates. The longer second section consists of detailed astronomical observations with tables of exact measurements. One of Goüye’s areas of expertise was the study of Jupiter. The all-important observations of Jupiter’s moons were of course used to determine Louvo’s longitude [a city in Thailand]. This was done definitively by Cassini, who used the Jesuits’ observations to calculate an ephemeris for all eclipses of Jupiter’s first satellite visible from the meridian of Louvo between 19 February and 30 March.” (O’Malley).

At the time of cataloguing, no other copy for sale. The last auction record was in 2004 by Sotheby’s for 2,160 GBP. There is one copy of Goüye’s second report of his observations published in 1692, a briefer work of 114 pp., recently listed for $14,000.


O’Malley, John W, Gauvin Alexander Bailey et. al. — editors. The Jesuits: Cultures, Sciences, and the Arts, 1540–1773, Volume 1. Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 1999, pages 248–250.

DeBaker & Sommervogel III, columns 1640–1641.

Cordier. Indosinica 949.


In stock

Stock Code: 1440B17 Collection: Catalogue:


For more information or to request additional photographs, please send an e-mail.

Search our Inventory

Stay in Touch

Join our mailing list to be the first to hear about new catalogue relases, upcoming events, and special offers. 
logo of mark funke bookseller with white letters "mf"