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Research reading on Levaillant

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Levaillant texts in print

François Le Vaillant: Travels into the Interior of Africa via the Cape of Good Hope. Translated and edited by Ian Glenn, with the assistance of Catherine Lauga Du Plessis and Ian Farlam (Van Riebeeck Society, Cape Town, 2007). [This is the first half of the 1789 text with annotations and an introduction.]

Francois Levaillant and the Birds of Africa. L.C. Rookmaaker, P. J. Mundy, I.E. Glenn and E. C. Spary. Brenthurst Press, Johannesburg. 484 pp. [This magnum opus includes a translation of many of Levaillant’s comments on birds of prey and some others, with commentary by Peter Mundy.]

Levaillant travel writing texts online in English [First voyage] [New travels]

Levaillant’s bird books online in French

The most reliable resources are the French Bibliothèque Nationale’s Gallica website and the Biodiversity website. The Biodiversity website is likely to be easier to navigate for English speakers.  [This lists all the travel and bird books by title.] [for the 5 volumes of African birds]

Critical writing about Levaillant

General studies

Quinton, J.C. et al. (eds.), François Le Vaillant, Traveller in South Africa, and his collection of 165 water-colour paintings, 1781-1784, 2 vols. Cape Town, 1973. [This includes the Matthys Bokhort biographical essay and much useful information and contains almost all the parliamentary water-colours. A French edition was also produced.]

L.C. Rookmaaker, P. J. Mundy, I.E. Glenn and E. C. Spary. Francois Levaillant and the Birds of Africa. Brenthurst Press, Johannesburg. 484 pp. 2004. [This is a full scholarly account with very high quality illustrations and reproductions of the Brenthurst Library original bird plates.]

On Levaillant as naturalist and ornithologist

Kees Rookmaaker, The Zoological Exploration of southern Africa, 1650-1790. [An online version of this is available at]

Ian Glenn, “François Le Vaillant : Resistant botanist?” In Batsaki, Cahalan and Tchikine (eds.), The botany of empire in the long eighteenth century, Washington DC: Dumbarton Oaks, pp.143-64. 2016.

Ian Glenn, “Levaillant’s Bird Books and the origin of a genre.” AlterNation. 16:2, 91-101. 2009.

L.C. Rookmaaker, P.A. Morris, I.E. Glenn, P.J. Mundy, “The ornithological cabinet of Jean-Baptiste Bécoeur and the secret of the arsenical soap.” Archives of Natural History, 33:1 (April), 146-58. 2006

Roy Siegfried’s Levaillant’s Legacy: a history of South African Ornithology, Print Matters, 2016 has a  promising title but very little on Levaillant.

On Levaillant as travel writer, social commentator and anthropologist

Siegfried Huigen, Knowledge and Colonialism: Eighteenth-Century Travellers in South Africa. Brill, 2009.

Ian Glenn, “Eighteenth-century natural history, travel writing and South African literary historiography.” In Attwell, D. and Attridge, D. (eds.) The Cambridge History of South African Literature. Cambridge: CUP, pp. 158-79. 2012.

Ian Glenn, “Francois Levaillant and the mapping of Southern Africa.” AlterNation 14:2, 25-39. 2007

Ian Glenn, “Classical black.”  English in Africa, 34:2, 19-33. 2007

Ian Glenn, “Primate Time: Rousseau, Levaillant, Marais.” Current Writing,18 (1), 61-77. 2006

Ian Glenn, “The man who invented safaris.” New Contrast 130, 33, 2, 64-70. 2005

Ian Glenn, “The wreck of the Grosvenor and the beginning of English South African literature.”  English in Africa 22:2, 1-18. 1996.

Works by Mary Louise Pratt (Imperial Eyes) and Michéle Duchet (Anthropologie et histoire au siècle des Lumières) were based on the heavily censored Boulenger text and thus offer a very distorted view of Levaillant.



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