The French Collector: Journal and Letters of Théodore Leschenault, Botanist of the Baudin Expedition

The French Collector: Journal and Letters of Théodore Leschenault, Botanist of the Baudin Expedition

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Translated by Paul Gibbard

‘It is only with difficulty that I may describe for you the sensations I felt the first time I went ashore on an unknown coast. My whole being was filled with confused pleasure, everything around me sparked my curiosity – pebbles, shells washed up on the beach, plants. I collected all with wild enthusiasm…’

The French botanist Théodore Leschenault (1773–1826) travelled with Nicolas Baudin’s voyage of discovery to Australia in the years 1800 to 1803: his journal and letters vividly record his impressions of the plant life and animals he encountered, along with dramatic and unsettling meetings with Indigenous peoples. Shaped as much by Enlightenment ideas as by his painful experience of the French Revolution, Leschenault weaves through his travelogue reflections on topics ranging from slavery and colonialism to plant systematics and environmental damage.

Long thought lost, Leschenault’s original manuscript journal was rediscovered only in 2016. The French Collector offers the first complete English translation of this journal (including two previously unknown chapters recounting his experiences in Le Havre, Tenerife and Mauritius) and various letters relating to the expedition. This edition also provides extensive explanatory notes and an introduction which details Leschenault’s early life in Burgundy and imprisonment during the Revolution and sets his activities against the backdrop of French science and exploration in the period.


Just as Leschenault was more than a collector this book is more than a translation Robyn Barker, State Herbarium of South Australia, published in the Australasian Systematic Plant Society newsletter March 2024


Book details

PUBLISHED: February 2023

PRICE: $39.99

FORMAT: 156mm W x 234 mm H

EXTENT: 350 pages 

CATEGORY: History; French

ISBN: 978-1-76080-216-5