9 Important discoveries

Voyages of discovery provided limitless material for social critique during the Enlightenment. In 1771 the report was published of the journey by Louis-Antoine de Bougainville to the Pacific Ocean in 1766-1769. This led Denis Diderot (1713-1784) to write his dialogue Supplément au Voyage de Bougainville, first published after his death in his complete works (1798). Diderot compares Tahitians to Europeans, using this opportunity to scrutinize slavery, colonialism, and Catholicism.

Supplément au voyage de Bougainville

Supplément au voyage de Bougainville
Denis Diderot
In: Oeuvres de Denis Diderot, tome III (pp. 371-443), Paris: Desray and Deterville, 1798
Book, 14 x 22



French Polynesia


Publication date of the "Supplément"

Cf. André Lichtenberger, Le socialisme au XVIIIe siècle (Paris, 1895) p.255, n. 2: "L'abbé Bourlet de Vauxcelles en possédait le manuscrit et le publia en 1796 avec des diatribes contre l'auteur."


On imaginary travels

Since the beginning of the seventeenth century stories of imaginary travels (also called odyssées philosophiques) started to appear in France as a new utopian genre. They followed the example of real travel accounts and served as a means for political and social reflection on life in Europe, which was considered to be distorted by European culture. A total of 74 such texts, some English ones among them, were republished in the series Voyages imaginaires, songes, visions et romans cabalistiques, in 36 volumes of which the library of the IISH holds 27. The series was published between 1787 and 1789 by Charles Georges Thomas Garnier (1746-1795). Amsterdam was given as place of publication. The Library of the University of Amsterdam holds a complete set. Eight of these volumes of imaginary travels are accessible on www.archive.org. The Institute’s collection of books on imaginary travels forms part of the extensive Utopian collection collected by Max Nettlau (1865-1944), which contains secondary studies on utopian themes and imaginary travels as well.