Rélation du Voyage à la Recherche de La Pérouse, fait par ordre de l'Assemblée Constituante, pendant les annees 1791, 1792, et pendant la 1ere et la 2de anneé de la République Française. Jacques Julien Houtou de LABILLARDIERE.
Rélation du Voyage à la Recherche de La Pérouse, fait par ordre de l'Assemblée Constituante, pendant les annees 1791, 1792, et pendant la 1ere et la 2de anneé de la République Française.
Rélation du Voyage à la Recherche de La Pérouse, fait par ordre de l'Assemblée Constituante, pendant les annees 1791, 1792, et pendant la 1ere et la 2de anneé de la République Française.

Rélation du Voyage à la Recherche de La Pérouse…
Rélation du Voyage à la Recherche de La Pérouse, fait par ordre de l'Assemblée Constituante, pendant les annees 1791, 1792, et pendant la 1ere et la 2de anneé de la République Française.

Paris: H. J. Jansen, 1800.

Two volumes, quarto, and folio atlas; text volumes uncut; the atlas with engraved title, folding chart of the voyage and 43 engraved maps, and plates; text in marbled papered boards, atlas in contemporary quarter calf with marbled paper sides; title page dated 1817.

Searching for La Pérouse: first account of the D'Entrecasteaux expedition

First edition. The superbly illustrated narrative by the naturalist on the d'Entrecasteaux expedition, in which Australia was fully circumnavigated, if sometimes at a distance, and the islands surrounding investigated for traces of La Pérouse. Jacques-Julien Houtou de Labillardière (1755-1834), was a botanist and doctor of medicine, who had travelled widely in the Middle East: he was just finishing up his important botanical study of Syria when he was appointed to the d'Entrecasteaux voyage. He remains an important figure in early Australian science as the author of the first extensive monograph on Australian botany.

First edition. The superbly illustrated narrative by the naturalist on the d'Entrecasteaux expedition, in which Australia was fully circumnavigated, if sometimes at a distance, and the islands surrounding investigated for traces of La Pérouse. Jacques-Julien Houtou de Labillardière (1755-1834), was a botanist and doctor of medicine, who had travelled widely in the Middle East: he was just finishing up his important botanical study of Syria when he was appointed to the d'Entrecasteaux voyage. He remains an important figure in early Australian science as the author of the first extensive monograph on Australian botany.

The voyage spent many months on the coasts of Western Australia, just a year after Vancouver's visit, and made two long visits to Tasmania, charting, botanising and exploring the coasts. The visits are remembered in numerous place names, most notably Recherche Archipelago and Recherche Bay, named for the expedition's ship. Labillardière's account is one of very few eighteenth-century accounts of Australian exploration, and the only major French account of the continent in the early settlement period to be published in the same century. The important narrative based on the commander d'Entrecasteaux's papers did not appear until 1808.

The work is particularly interesting for its descriptions (and illustrations) of Tasmania, Tonga, New Caledonia, and New Guinea, and the atlas contains outstanding views of these areas by the official artist Piron. Included is the famous engraving of the black swan. the first large depiction of the exotic Australian bird. Fourteen botanical plates, all by or produced under the direction of Redouté, the most famous of all botanical artists, include two of Eucalypts and two of Banksias.

The expedition had left France at a high-point of Revolutionary confidence, but the two vessels were dogged by poor luck, notably a power vacuum after the death of the commander and several senior officers, and were ultimately riven by political discord, not least because Labillardière himself was an ardent Republican. It was in this desperate state that the ships anchored in Batavia in mid-1793, where they learned of the French Revolution, and D'Auribeau, then commander, and the principal officers being monarchists, put themselves under Dutch protection, arrested the remainder of the officers, including Labillardière the naturalist, and Piron the artist, and disposed of the ships. D'Auribeau in turn died, and was succeeded by Rossel, who managed to return to Europe and later edited the manuscripts for the official account.

That Labillardière even made it back is a small miracle (given how many of his shipmates died of scurvy or in prison), but the most serendipitous aspect of the project is that the expedition's papers and all of his specimens were confiscated by the surviving commander of the expedition, eventually ending up in England: only the support of Banks himself, placing science above war, meant that the herbarium ever made it to France under a flag of truce.

Labillardière's account appeared some eight years before that of d'Entrecasteaux which had to wait until the First French Republic had been well established.

A few leaves in the second text volume with light water-stains; otherwise fine.

Ferguson, 307; Hill, 954; Kroepelien, 697; McLaren, 'Lapérouse in the Pacific', 51.

Condition Report: Some leaves with restoration and scattered foxing, title page and five plates slightly smaller.

Price (AUD): $21,000.00

US$15,224.19   Other currencies

Ref: #2601979

Condition Report