A History of Swimming and Bathing, as well as Useful Things To Do in the Water, like Dog Paddling and Cutting one's Toenails(!)


(Paris: Chez Lamy, 1782). 145 x 88 mm. (5 3/4 x 3"). 1 p.l., 363, [5], 12 pp. Fourth Edition.

Modern quarter calf over older marbled paper boards, flat spine gilt in compartments with intricate central fleuron, gilt titling, marbled endpapers. With 23 engravings, 22 by Charles Moette showing proper swimming technique, and one of a plan of a swimming school by Martinet in the supplement. Brunet V, 813; Graesse VII, 133. ◆A little light wear to the boards, corners rubbed, but a perfectly sound binding. A few plates with some light marginal dampstaining (more noticeable on one plate), a touch of dampstain along the lower edge of a few pages, the odd negligible blemish, but still a bright, fresh copy.

First printed in 1696, this is an early work on swimming with charming illustrations. In the history of swimming publications, it was preceded by the 1538 "Colymbetes" by the German professor of languages Nicolaus Winmann, the 1587 "De Arte Natandi" by the Englishman Everard Digby, and the 1595 English translation and adaptation of that work by Christopher Middleton. Thévenot essentially copied Digby's work, and for good reason. Whereas Digby was reputed to be a master swimmer, Thévenot was said to be entirely unable to swim. That put him in good company, as an ability to swim was not common at the time, and swimming was generally viewed as a skill cultivated only by working-class sailors. Thévenot pointed out its usefulness to trade and to the military, at a time when ships were essential in both of those spheres. He also observes that everyone--whether a world traveller or a cautious soul who never leaves his hometown--runs the risk of falling into a river or pond, in which case a knowledge of swimming could mean the difference between life and death.

Much of the volume is given over to descriptions of various strokes and maneuvers, ranging from the inarguably useful--dog paddling and treading water--to those of somewhat dubious utility, like the cutting of one's toenails while floating in water. Also given here is a history of swimming and bathing, an account of attire and paraphernalia, directions for resuscitating a drowning person, and the health benefits of swimming.

Price: $1,100.00