Voyage de La Pérouse autour du Monde… rédigé par M.L.A. Milet-Mureau. Jean François de Galaup de LA PEROUSE.

Voyage de La Pérouse autour du Monde…
Voyage de La Pérouse autour du Monde… rédigé par M.L.A. Milet-Mureau.

Paris: Imprimerie de la Republique, 1797.

Four volumes, quarto, and folio atlas, with 69 maps and plates (21 folding) in the atlas; the text in fine condition on bluish-tinted paper; text volumes in contemporary or near-contemporary English dark green straight-grained morocco, spines banded and lettered in gilt, all edges gilt; atlas in a modern half morocco binding to match.

"Vanished trackless into blue immensity"

First edition of one of the finest narratives of maritime exploration ever published. This is a very clean and attractive set of this great book, in an excellent binding. La Pérouse's two ships sailed from Brest in 1785. On their way to the northwest coast of America they stopped in Chile, Easter Island and Hawaii, where they were the first Europeans to land on Maui. During 1786 La Pérouse followed the American coast from their landfall near Mount St Elias in Alaska to southern California, exploring and mapping the coast and making particularly significant visits to Lituya Bay where they transacted with the Tlingit tribe (as dramatised two centuries later by Carl Sagan in Cosmos), the outer islands of British Columbia, San Francisco and Monterey. The first non-Spanish visitor to California since Francis Drake, the French explorer took close note of Spanish activity in the pueblos and missions. Sailing on, they visited Macau, Manila, Korea, the Pacific coast of Russia, Japan, and Samoa and explored the central Pacific, but their main instructions were to make for Australian waters to check on English activity in the region.

First edition of one of the finest narratives of maritime exploration ever published. This is a very clean and attractive set of this great book, in an excellent binding. La Pérouse's two ships sailed from Brest in 1785. On their way to the northwest coast of America they stopped in Chile, Easter Island and Hawaii, where they were the first Europeans to land on Maui. During 1786 La Pérouse followed the American coast from their landfall near Mount St Elias in Alaska to southern California, exploring and mapping the coast and making particularly significant visits to Lituya Bay where they transacted with the Tlingit tribe (as dramatised two centuries later by Carl Sagan in Cosmos), the outer islands of British Columbia, San Francisco and Monterey. The first non-Spanish visitor to California since Francis Drake, the French explorer took close note of Spanish activity in the pueblos and missions. Sailing on, they visited Macau, Manila, Korea, the Pacific coast of Russia, Japan, and Samoa and explored the central Pacific, but their main instructions were to make for Australian waters to check on English activity in the region.
On 24 January 1788, two and a half years after their departure from France, La Pérouse's ships sailed into Botany Bay just hours after the settlers under Governor Phillip began the move from Botany Bay to Port Jackson. After their subsequent departure from the Australian east coast they "vanished trackless into blue immensity" (Carlyle); no further trace would be found of the expedition for three decades. La Pérouse's habit of forwarding records whenever he had an opportunity to do so ensured the survival of at least the narrative to that point. The first portion of the expedition's records had been forwarded by sea from Macao; the second (Macao to Kamchatka) went overland with de Lesseps, and the final reports went back with British despatches from Botany Bay, the British extending what was then a normal courtesy between the exploring nations. It was from these records that Milet-Mureau, the editor, established the official narrative of the expedition for its publication in this form.
The folio Atlas includes magnificent maps of Russian Asia, Japan, California and the Pacific Northwest Coast with important new data for the then imperfectly known Asiatic side of the Pacific; it also contains the wonderful series of views chiefly after the original drawings by the chief official artist, Gaspard Duché de Vancy, that had been sent back to France with the various despatches; many of these were recently exhibited at the Musée de la Marine in Paris. Strikingly interpreted as engravings and printed here in rich dark impressions they were, as Christina Ionescu (Book Illustration in the Long Eighteenth Century) has noted, like the engravings in the huge Napoleonic Déscription de l'Egypte, continuing a tradition of "large and extravagant productions" at a time when more commercial publishers were generally downsizing the illustrative content of publications.
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With regard to the meeting in Botany Bay it has been remarked that the friendship between the two nations grew in proportion to their distance from home. Certainly the English attitude to La Pérouse seemed natural to Watkin Tench: "during their stay in the port the officers of the two nations had frequent opportunities of testifying their mutual regard by visits and other interchanges of friendship and esteem;" and La Pérouse endeared himself particularly "by the feeling manner in which he always mentioned the name and talents of Captain Cook."
As Glyn Williams has characterised it, the French voyage was 'A deliberate réplique française or counter-stroke to Cook's voyages… a follow-up to Cook's third voyage, [with] its instructions a running commentary on what Cook had discovered and left undiscovered…'. Philip Gidley King noted in his journal that the French explorer "informed me that every place where he has touched or been near, he found all the astronomical and nautical works of Captain Cook to be very exact and true, and concluded by saying, 'Enfin, Monsieur Cook a tant fait qu'il ne m'a rien laissé à faire que d'admirer ses oeuvres' ["Captain Cook has done so much that he has left me with nothing to do but admire his achievements'].
A voyage despatched in the fullest spirit of the Enlightenment, under the direct orders of the monarch himself, it was intended to complete discoveries and satisfy many different curiosities. La Pérouse was specifically instructed to study climates, native peoples, plants and animals, to collect specimens and artefacts and to observe the activities of other European powers. The official instructions included the requirement that he should 'act with great gentleness and humanity towards the different people whom he will visit'.
The timing was remarkable: coincident at its close with the Australian First Fleet, La Pérouse left France in 1785 and never knew of the French Revolution; and while Marie Antoinette chose Cook's voyages to read the night before her death, Louis XVI is said to have repeated on his way to the scaffold the question that he had been asking for months: ''Is there any news of M. de La Pérouse? '.

Provenance: Library of the Earl of Derby at Knowsley Hall (bookplates, and ms. shelfmarks for "Garden Library").

Anker, 276; Borba de Moraes, p. 449; Cowan, p. 383; Ferguson, 251; Forbes, 272; 'Hawaii One Hundred', 12; Hill, 972; Judd, 102; Lada-Mocarski, 52; McLaren, 'Lapérouse in the Pacific', 1.

Price (AUD): $36,000.00  other currencies     Ref: #4504934