No. 649. Loi relative à la découverte des deux frégates Françoises la Boussole & l'Astrolabe, commandées par M. de la Pérouse. Donnée à Paris, le 25 Février 1791 [caption-title]. LA PEROUSE, ASSEMBLÉE NATIONALE.

Loi relative à la découverte des deux frégates Françoises la Boussole & l'Astrolabe…
No. 649. Loi relative à la découverte des deux frégates Françoises la Boussole & l'Astrolabe, commandées par M. de la Pérouse. Donnée à Paris, le 25 Février 1791 [caption-title].

Paris: l'Imprimerie Royale, 1791.

Quarto, 4 pp., uncut and unbound as issued; in fine condition.

First formal acknowledgement of fears for the La Pérouse expedition

The search for La Pérouse was initiated with this French National Assembly decree, in response to a petition from the Société d'Histoire Naturelle. As well as this original Paris printing there were simultaneous issues of the decree in Valenciennes, Pau, Orleans, Grenoble and Auxerre. These printings are all rare today, the original Paris version especially so.

The search for La Pérouse was initiated with this French National Assembly decree, in response to a petition from the Société d'Histoire Naturelle. As well as this original Paris printing there were simultaneous issues of the decree in Valenciennes, Pau, Orleans, Grenoble and Auxerre. These printings are all rare today, the original Paris version especially so.

Not known to Ferguson; the Ferguson Addenda (106a) adds the Auxerre imprint of this edict by reference to a copy recorded by the California bibliographer Edward Allen in his La Pérouse "Check List" of 1941. McLaren, who notes Pau, Auxerre and Valenciennes printings, all from copies held in Australian libraries, could cite this original Paris edition only by reference to Du Rietz's cataloguing of a copy in the Kroepelien collection in Oslo.

In this, the first of two La Pérouse decrees issued in 1791, France formally acknowledged her fears for the loss of the expedition. The two ships had last made contact from the east coast of Australia, which they reached a mere six days after the First Fleet. Two years after this the mystery ran so deep that it has been said that Louis XVI was still asking for news on his way to the scaffold. The decree resulted immediately in D'Entrecasteaux's voyage. Such is this document's importance that it was reprinted at the start of the official account of the La Pérouse voyage where it stood as both an invitation for continued search efforts, and an implicit elegy for France's greatest explorer.

'The decree requested the king to authorize compensation for nationals of other countries willing to help in the search. It also requested him to commission one or more vessels, on which were to be embarked scientists, naturalists and artists to search for La Pérouse and to make scientific and commercial inquiries. Even if La Pérouse was found or news of him discovered, the leader of the expedition was to continue to make investigations useful to navigation, geography, commerce, the arts and the sciences… [In the political circumstances] widespread enthusiasm for a voyage of discovery was not surprising. Patriotism too was a uniting force; La Pérouse's expedition was a source of national pride, a demonstration to the world that England had no monopoly in glorious feats of maritime exploration…' (Frank Horner, Looking for La Pérouse: D'Entrecasteaux in Australia and the South Pacific, 1792-1793, Melbourne, 1995).

Allen, p.10; Kroepelien, 710; McLaren, 129.

Price (AUD): $6,400.00  other currencies Ref: #4505073