From the 16th to 18th centuries, French voyagers traveled extensively in the Mediterranean basin and beyond. This collection contains accounts that range from catalogues of curiosities to detailed topographical data, from botanical and archaeological research to analyses of economic and social structures.
The anthropological interest of these documents is self-evident, but many are clearly works of literature. Travel literature was widely read by both the public and the intelligensia, forming an important part of the cultural consciousness of the times and sometimes revealing as much about the explorer as the explored. In its description of the encounter with the other, travel literature reveals the complexities of cross-cultural confrontation. These travel accounts frequently inspired the great philosophical debates of the 18th century, which often took the form of fictional voyages to real or imagined lands.