Item #2601979 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…
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 [Atlas volume dated 1817 on title-page].

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.

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

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 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, once the First French Republic had been well established.

In this set the Atlas volume is present in the 1817 reissued version, from the same printing as its appearance in 1800 but with a new title-page. Published on its own, it may well have been produced to accompany text volumes that remained in print from the earlier edition. The publication is noted (without particular comment) by the McLaren bibliography and recorded by Ferguson from copies in the Mitchell Library and the Tasmanian parliamentary library.

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, their inhabitants, and native artefacts by the official artist Piron. Included is the famous engraving of the black swan. the first large depiction of the exotic Australian bird. Fourteen superb 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. There are three fine bird studies by Audibert.

Bernard Smith has written (European Vision and the South Pacific, 2nd edn, 1817, pp. 149-152) about the images in the atlas, and particularly the portraits which with "no sentiment, no sensuousness, no sense of luxury, no aura of soft primitivism clinging about the dry, wiry natives" derive rather from the school of "heroic stoicism" of Jacques Louis David. Smith notes that Piron, the official artist of the voyage, instead models his portraits on the classical ideal and his portraits are more than simply reminiscent of such classical icons as the Venus de Medici, and the Polykleitos depictions of Doryphoros and the Wounded Amazon

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.

Ferguson, 307 & Atlas 682; Hill, 954; Kroepelien, 697; McLaren, 'Lapérouse in the Pacific', 51, & Atlas 67.

Condition Report: Some leaves in the atlas with restoration and scattered foxing, title page and five plates slightly smaller; a few leaves in the second text volume with light water-stains; otherwise fine.

Price (AUD): $12,250.00

US$8,496.01   Other currencies

Ref: #2601979

Condition Report