The Discovery of Jeanne Baret: A Story of Science, the High Seas, and the First Woman to Circumnavigate the Globe promises to do all those things.
I had never heard of Jeanne Baret, the daughter of illiterate French peasants who, in 1766, disguised herself as a teenage boy in order to join the first French expedition to sail around the world.
Not surprisingly, I’m not the only one. Jeanne Baret’s accomplishments have mostly been lost to history – until now. Author Glynis Ridley played historical detective and meticulously pieced together the intriguing story of this remarkable woman.
I’m pleased as punch to be able to give away TWO FREE COPIES of this book – consider it my little holiday present to two lucky readers.
Glynis is the tenth author I’ve invited onto the blog as part of my interview series. To mark this ‘decade’ of posts, I’ve asked Glynis herself to tell us a bit about her book. (And to be honest, I hardly knew where to begin with the questions! The role of women in 18th century France? The birth of botany? The tale of disguise?)
As this is a Paris blog, I’ve asked her to give us a taste of Jeanne Baret’s experience here. I have only just started diving into Glynis’ book, but can already tell it is expertly researched and an elegant narration of a truly fascinating subject. As you can see by her guest post below, she packs in a lot of information.
As for Jeanne Baret’s full story, you’ll just have to read the book. Details about the giveaway at the end of the post!
The Discovery of Jeanne Baret: A Story of Science, the High Seas, and the First Woman to Circumnavigate the Globe by Glynis Ridley
In Midnight in Paris, Woody Allen makes the dead of night a magic portal back to Paris in the 1920s. But it’s an easy matter to get back to an even earlier Paris in broad daylight. This was especially useful to me in researching my book, The Discovery of Jeanne Baret, about a Frenchwoman who disguised herself as a man to join the first French circumnavigation of the globe (1766-69).
Jeanne Baret spent September 1764 –December 1766, in an apartment on the rue des Boulangers (5ème) before leaving to board ship in Rochefort. The street was chosen by Baret’s lover, the botanist Philibert Commerson (for whom Baret worked on the voyage). Commerson wanted somewhere close to the Jardin des Plantes because he was obsessed with botany. (As a student in Montpellier, he’d been banned from the botanical garden there because he didn’t hesitate to dig up plants to add to his personal collection.)
I like to imagine what Baret and Commerson would say, strolling the avenues of what they knew as the Jardin du Roi, if you could tell them that the 6000 specimens they collected on the expedition finally found their way back to the French national herbarium in the Muséum national d’histoire naturelle, whose buildings now frame the gardens.
Bearing in mind that one of the original purposes of the Jardin des Plantes was to succeed in growing commercially important exotic crops on French soil, it’s good to be able to head for a place dedicated to one of the most addictive of those crops – the first coffee shop to open in Paris – Le Procope – in the rue de l’Ancienne Comédie (6ème), founded in 1686. Linger over a single cup and tell yourself you’re only doing what Voltaire did. (Voltaire had offered Commerson the position of his private secretary in 1755, but Commerson preferred plant collecting to taking dictation.)
And assuming that a stroll in the gardens and a good cup of coffee has given you an appetite for some 18th century indoors culture, I think you can’t do better than the little-known Musée Nissim de Camondo (63, rue de Monceau, 8ème). The museum displays an exquisite collection of 18th century furniture, paintings and accessories, in period room settings that allow you to step back over 250 years, away from the tourist crowds at better known attractions. It’s just a pity you can’t relax in one of the chairs.
Thanks so much, Glynis! I have new addresses to visit in Paris!
To enter to win a copy of The Discovery of Jeanne Baret leave a comment below. Or, if you haven’t already subscribed to the blog via email, subscribing via email earns an entry, too. Be sure to enter by 9 PM Paris time on Sunday, December 18. I’ll contact winners individually. Good luck!
Glynis also welcomes readers on her Facebook page.