Travels in Persia (1972, AMS Press) 4 stars

In this remarkable account of his second sojourn in Persia, the author paints a splendid …

One of the better 17th century books I've read

4 stars

So, I read the first book of this multi book series by a Huguenot jeweler recounting his time traveling to Persia in the 1680s. The first half of the book is about his time passing through modern day Turkey and through Georgia and Armenia before getting to Azerbaijan and then into Persia proper. It's incredibly readable and breezy for something published in 1691, though you have to get Used to Randomly Capitalized words and Shoddy Orthography and typesetting where s and f look the same.

The book is half day to day diary, and half digressions on politics and religion and economics and geography. Chardin has reasonable command of English and Persian in addition to his native French. (This book was originally written in French but he collaborated on its English translation.) His understanding of history and etymology is pretty good for someone of his era though there is a lot of the usual making-shit-up you find in travelogues.

There are some delightful stories about drunk Muscovite ambassadors and some drama involving philandering court cryptographers somewhere in or near modern Turkey I want to say.

Chardin is a remarkably sensitive and even keeled observer during his travels. I just finished a 1950 travelogue of an Englishman in Iran and it is full of condescension even though the author has the best intentions. But Chardin is writing this before European nations began treating Asian countries as vassal states and playthings. He seems to really consider Persia and its people on equal footing with European nations, and really wants to observe and learn from them.

Anyway, this is a great read if you are remotely interested in early modern Persia, and can be found on the Internet Archive for free.