Eloge Historique de François Péron…
Eloge Historique de François Péron, rédacteur du Voyage de Découvertes aux Terres Australes…

Paris: L.P. Dubray, 1811.

Quarto, pp. [ii], lv; engraved frontispiece portrait of Péron after Charles Alexandre Lesueur; modern half green morocco.

Lamenting the early death of Baudin's great naturalist and Freycinet's collaborator

Rare eulogy for François Péron, the naturalist on the Baudin voyage, commissioned by his great friend Lesueur, and delivered at the Faculty of Medicine in Paris by the body's secretary-general, Alard. Editor of the first portion of the official account of Baudin's voyage (which was completed after his death by his friend and fellow-explorer Louis de Freycinet), Péron had travelled as zoologist-anthropologist on the voyage, and was effectively the leader of those who took issue with the commander's anti-science stance. Péron certainly took his revenge after Baudin's death: nowhere in the text of Péron's account of the voyage is Baudin's name mentioned; and while no Australian placename commemorates the commander's name, Peron Peninsula is a sizeable memorial to the scientist.

Rare eulogy for François Péron, the naturalist on the Baudin voyage, commissioned by his great friend Lesueur, and delivered at the Faculty of Medicine in Paris by the body's secretary-general, Alard. Editor of the first portion of the official account of Baudin's voyage (which was completed after his death by his friend and fellow-explorer Louis de Freycinet), Péron had travelled as zoologist-anthropologist on the voyage, and was effectively the leader of those who took issue with the commander's anti-science stance. Péron certainly took his revenge after Baudin's death: nowhere in the text of Péron's account of the voyage is Baudin's name mentioned; and while no Australian placename commemorates the commander's name, Peron Peninsula is a sizeable memorial to the scientist.

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Péron (1775-1810) was born in Cérilly, and originally intended to join the priesthood, but reluctantly joined the army in 1792 to defend Landau. Wounded and imprisoned, he spent the following two years locked up in the Fortress of Magdeburg, during which time he lost sight in one eye: when he finally returned to France in 1794 this injury meant that he was invalided out of the army. He won a scholarship to study medicine in Paris but in 1800, crossed in love, he sought refuge on the Baudin voyage, where he was appointed as a trainee zoologist. Péron and Baudin clashed continually, but when the two senior zoologists died, the young man was promoted, and proved himself an able scientist. On his return from the voyage, Péron was given the task of preparing the narrative account for publication, but his health - never good - was deteriorating, and despite time spent on the Mediterranean coast trying to recuperate, he died at home in Cérilly in December 1810 from tuberculosis, his boon companion Lesueur, artist on the Baudin voyage, by his side. Lesueur was devastated; he had prepared a wonderful portrait of his friend surrounded by books and maps for publication in the official account of the Baudin voyage: another version of it was specially engraved as frontispiece for this eulogy.

The publication is rare: Ferguson knew only the National Library of Australia copy (but, evidently in error, suggested that there should also be a plate showing Péron's tomb: such a plate does exist but in fact belongs with another reminiscence of Péron, by Deleuze, with which the National Library's copy is bound).

Provenance: Private collection (Sydney).

Ferguson, 509a.

Price (AUD): $4,250.00  other currencies Ref: #4505115

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