Georg Forster

A voyage round the world (1877), ed. by Nicholas Thomas & Oliver Berghof

Hawai'i University Press

Honolulu, 2000

bibliothèque insulaire



parutions 2000

A voyage round the world / Georg Forster ; edited by Nicholas Thomas and Oliver Berghof ; assisted by Jennifer Newell. - Honolulu : University of Hawai'i press, 2000. - 2 vol. (XLVII-475, XV-[477]-860 p.) : ill., cartes ; 25 cm.
ISBN 2-8248-2091-6
… celui qui a eu la chance de partir et d'avoir vingt ans dans les mers du Sud en compagnie du capitaine Cook.

Jean-Jo Scemla, “ Georges Forster l'Européen : du voyage autour du monde à la Révolution française ”
Les Temps modernes, n° 523, février 1990

: George Forster's A Voyage round the world presents a wealth of geographic, scientific, and ethnographic knowledge uncovered by Cook's second journey of exploration in the Pacific (1772-1775). Accompanying his father, the ship's naturalist Johann Reinhold Forster, on the voyage, George proved a knowledgeable and adept observer. The lively, elegant prose and critical detail of his account, based loosely on his father's journal, make it one of the finest works of eighteenth-century travel literature and an account of prime importance in the history of european contact with Pacific peoples. The Forsters' publications reveal the sophistication and enthusiasm they brought to their observation of Polynesian peoples as well as a sensitivity to the moral ambiguities of contact.
The two volumes of George Forster's work include substantially richer descriptions of encounters with island inhabitants than either his father's classic work (Observations Made during a Voyage round the World, UH Press, 1996) or Cook's official narrative, and its confident, even visionary, style incorporates a good deal of polemic, particularly in its criticism of the treatment of islanders by Cook's crew. In addition to the range and depth of its anthropological considerations, it provides a thrilling account of life aboard one of Cook's vessels.

In its author's German translation, this work becomes a classic of natural history writing, but its original English version has long been neglected by anglophone scholars. This new scholarly edition makes this important book readily available for the first time since its initial publication more than two centuries ago. But it also presents the work in fresh terms, make it more accessible and relevant to a contemporary audience. The valuable introduction and annotations draw on the wide range of anthropological and ethnohistorical scholarship published since the 1960s and contextualize the book in relation to both the cultures of Oceania documented by the Forsters and the history of European voyaging in the Pacific. Appendixes include a translation of the introduction to the German edition and the polemical pamphlets by George Forster and the ship's astronomer William Wales, in which some of the book's more controversial claims were debated.

A Voyage Round the World brings the disciplines of history and anthropology to bear on Cook's voyages in an illuminating and readable fashion. This edition will help complete the corpus of basic documents on Cook's voyages — a crucial resource for researchers in cultural, Pacific, and maritime history ; archaeologists, anthropologists, and art historians ; and most recently for scholars engaged in revisionist interpretations of eighteenth-century exploration and colonization.


Forster's Voyage, of all the eighteenth-century accounts of the Pacific, probably best demonstrates the complex transactions and recognitions that accompanied every Pacific landfall […].

George Forster's Voyage has many different kinds of significance. Chronologically it was the first published account of Cook's second voyage. George was not subject to the same Admiralty controls as his father [Johann Reinhold] and his work appeared six weeks before the official record. Thomas and Berghof give a meticulous account of its complex history of publication and reception. More significant is George's nuanced understanding of his own « speaker-position ». Reflecting on travellers' tales he wrote : « two travellers seldom saw the same object in the same manner, and each reported the fact differently, according to his sensations, and his peculiar mode of thinking. It was therefore necessary to be acquainted with the observer, before any use could be made of his observations ». Accordingly, Forster continued, « it was necessary for every reader to know the colour of the glass through which I looked ». Forster's lens is a very interesting one. Thomas and Berghof place him at the intersection of the Enlightenment and Romanticism, his « horizon of expectation » informed by Goethe and Sterne's Sentimental Journey, his influence on Herder, Blumenbach and Kant palpable.


Cook's account of his second voyage is often dull. J. R. Forster's Journals are fresh but clumsily written ; his Observations is a meditation on the voyage but not the thing itself. George's Forster's Journey combines the immediacy of experience with developed reflection upon it, and is much better written than anything by either Cook or his own father.


My point is not that George's account demonstrates more insight than the others, but to show how experience and reflection are working together in a way not often found in his father's work, and hardly at all in Cook's. And, characteristically, George's is the most engaging and provocative of the three. Both editors and publishers are to be thanked and congratulated for making available this invaluable, handsome, scholarly and user-friendly edition.

Journal for Maritime Research, November 2001

  • Georg Forster, « A voyage round the world in His britannic Majesty's Sloop Resolution, commanded by Capt. James Cook, during the years 1772, 3, 4 and 5 », Londres : B. White, J. Robson, P. Elmsly and G. Robinson, 1777
  • Georg Forster, « Johann Reinhold Forster's (…) Reise um die Welt während den Jahren 1772 bis 1775 », Berlin : Haude und Spener, 1778-1780
  • Georg Forster, « Reise um die Welt, illustriert von eigener Hand » mit einem biographischen Essay von Klaus Harpprecht und einem Nachwort von Frank Vorpahl, Frankfurt am Main : Eichborn (Die andere Bibliothek), 2007
  • Georg Forster, « Voyage autour du monde : Tahiti, Nouvelle Calédonie » trad. de l'allemand par Joël Lefebvre, Paris : Éd. des Écrivains, 2002
  • Georg Forster, « Voyage autour du monde : Antarctique, île de Pâques, îles Marquises » trad. de l'allemand par Joël Lefebvre, Paris : Éd. des Écrivains, 2004
  • William Wales, « Remarks on Mr. Forster's account of captain Cook's last voyage round the world [...] », Londres : J. Nourse, 1778
  • Georg Forster, « Reply to Mr. Wales's remarks », Londres : B. White, J. Robson, P. Elmsly & G. Robinson, 1778
  • Christoph Martin Wieland, « Auszüge aus Johann Reinhold Forsters Reise um die Welt », Deutscher Merkur (Leipzig), 3. Bd & 4. Bd, 1778
  • Georg Christian Lichtenberg, « Einige Lebensumstände von Capt. James Cook, größtentheils aus schriftl. Nachrichten einiger seiner Bekannten gezogen », Göttingisches Magazin der Wissenschaften und Literatur, Jg. I, Stück 2, 1780 (pp. 243-296)
  • Marita Gilli, « Georg Forster, l'œuvre d'un penseur allemand réaliste et révolutionnaire », Paris : Honoré Champion, 1975
  • Jean[-Jo] Scemla, « Georges Forster l'Européen — Du voyage autour du monde à la Révolution française », Les Temps Modernes, février 1990, 523 (pp. 137-187) ; Bulletin de la Sté des études océaniennes, 251-252, septembre-décembre 1990 [ANA'ITE — la bibliothèque scientifique numérique polynésienne : téléchargement]
  • Georg Christian Lichtenberg und Georg Forster, « Cook der Entdecker : Schriften über James Cook », Leipzig : Reclam Verlag, 1991
  • Johann Reinhold Forster, « Observations made during a voyage round the world » ed. by Nicholas Thomas, Harriet Guest & Michael Dettelbach, Honolulu : University of Hawai'i Press, 1996
  • Doris Kaufmann, « Les sexes et la nature humaine dans le Voyage autour du monde de Georg Forster », Gradhiva, revue d'histoire et d'archives de l'anthropologie (Paris), 1998

mise-à-jour : 23 août 2019