Carte de l'isle Bonaparte Assujettie aux Opérations Géométriques de MM. la Caille, Chisny & de l'Auteur…. Jean-Baptiste LISLET GEOFFROY.

Carte de l'isle Bonaparte Assujettie aux Opérations Géométriques de MM. la Caille, Chisny & de l'Auteur…

[Réunion]: 1808.

Manuscript chart; 440 x 540 mm., expertly drawn details in ink on laid paper.

Manuscript map: French Indian Ocean territory in the era of Flinders's imprisonment

A beautifully-drawn large manuscript map of Île Bonaparte (modern Réunion) commissioned in anticipation of the naval actions that would determine possession of the French Indian Ocean Territories during the Napoleonic Wars. An expert piece of work, it was prepared in 1808, at a time of escalating tensions between the French and the British, and when the French Governor Charles Decaen had detained Matthew Flinders on the neighbouring island of Mauritius (Ile de France), a mere 175 kilometres away. Decaen believed Flinders' knowledge of the island's defences would encourage Britain to attempt incursion and Flinders was imprisoned there for much of the Mauritius campaign of 1809-11.

A beautifully-drawn large manuscript map of Île Bonaparte (modern Réunion) commissioned in anticipation of the naval actions that would determine possession of the French Indian Ocean Territories during the Napoleonic Wars. An expert piece of work, it was prepared in 1808, at a time of escalating tensions between the French and the British, and when the French Governor Charles Decaen had detained Matthew Flinders on the neighbouring island of Mauritius (Ile de France), a mere 175 kilometres away. Decaen believed Flinders' knowledge of the island's defences would encourage Britain to attempt incursion and Flinders was imprisoned there for much of the Mauritius campaign of 1809-11.

The French Government commissioned Lislet Geoffroy to prepare this manuscript as the French were ramping up the use of Réunion and its more important eastern neighbour Mauritius for their ongoing raiding of British shipping in the region. The French Government had dispatched the Baudin voyage veteran Jacques Hamelin to the region in command of the Vénus with orders to use the regional harbours as strongholds from which to attack the British India trade. The British Navy, under the overall command of Admiral Bertie, overcame their initially unsuccessful attempts to counter-attack with a tactically astute plan to take Réunion and Mauritius by ground invasion, crippling the French. In the event the more sparsely populated Réunion was taken first and used as a springboard for the November 1810 assault on Mauritius. Matthew Flinders was paroled from his Mauritian imprisonment just months before, in mid-1810, following the British blockade of the island.

Testament to the shifting political realities of the Indian Ocean, Geoffroy Lislet's work was openly adopted eleven years later by the major London map-maker Arrowsmith, who issued a map featuring the Frenchman's work in 1819. In Arrowsmith's Memoir and Notice explanatory of a Chart of Madagascar that 1819 printed map was accompanied by a description written by the English Governor, Robert Townsend Farquhar. He describes the great utility of proper mapping of this important region for trade, and praises the friendly assistance of Lislet Geoffroy in its preparation. Townsend comments that the 1819 map was based in part on the "... materials which had been collected by the French Government", and which he had lost no opportunity to review. Lislet-Geoffroy's own memoir in the same publication describes how he had been closely involved in mapping the region for over 20 years, and was glad of the opportunity to publish such a thorough account.

Jean-Baptiste Lislet Geoffroy (1755–1836), French botanist and cartographer, spent most of his life in the Indian Ocean: he was born in Saint-Pierre, Réunion and died in Port-Louis, Mauritius. Elected to the French Academy of Sciences in 1791, he is thought to have been the first person of African descent to be so honoured. His father was a French engineer employed by the Compagnie des Indes, and his mother a Senegalese woman called Niama who had been traded as a slave.

Provenance: Louis-Henri de Freycinet Governor of Reunion, 15 February 1821-14 October 1826.

Condition Report: A few unobtrusive age marks on lower edge otherwise in excellent condition.

Price (AUD): $8,250.00

US$6,127.12   Other currencies

Ref: #3912516

Condition Report