La Navigation, Poëme. LA PEROUSE, Joseph-Alphonse ESMENARD.
La Navigation, Poëme.

La Navigation, Poëme.

Paris: Giguet et Michaud, 1805.

Two volumes, octavo, engraved frontispiece and half-title in each volume, some occasional light foxing, early owner's name; a very handsome copy in nineteenth-century green quarter morocco with paper boards, flat spines banded and ornamented in gilt.

Leurs cris mêlés au bruit lointain des rochers et de l'onde

This is the scarce first edition of Esmenard's epic poem on the voyages of discovery generally, and La Pérouse specifically. The work includes a plate showing the then hypothetical wreck of La Pérouse, 'Naufrage des Canots de la Pérouse au Port des Français.' A hardy and experienced mariner himself, Esmenard composed the poem while under sail with Villaret-Joyeuse to Martinique. The epic poem demonstrates his broad knowledge of the voyages of the eighteenth century, with references to Bougainville, Malaspina, Byron, Wallis and Surville, as well as sections on the 'immortelle' Anson and 'sage et malheureux' Cook.

This is the scarce first edition of Esmenard's epic poem on the voyages of discovery generally, and La Pérouse specifically. The work includes a plate showing the then hypothetical wreck of La Pérouse, 'Naufrage des Canots de la Pérouse au Port des Français.' A hardy and experienced mariner himself, Esmenard composed the poem while under sail with Villaret-Joyeuse to Martinique. The epic poem demonstrates his broad knowledge of the voyages of the eighteenth century, with references to Bougainville, Malaspina, Byron, Wallis and Surville, as well as sections on the 'immortelle' Anson and 'sage et malheureux' Cook.

As an homage to the great La Pérouse, 'maître du monde', this is one of the most beautiful examples of the enduring interest in his fate, given that by 1805 he had been missing for over a decade. On the scaffold Louis XVI had asked "What news of La Pérouse?" Esmenard writes that the distraught French people still wait and hope for his return, but probably in vain. In fact, both text and image assume that La Pérouse has wrecked on some fatal island: 'Dans ce gouffre écumant que la mort environne, / De leur fatal naufrage embrassent les débris, / Voyez-vous ces soldats, entendez-vous leurs cris, / Mêlés au bruit lointain des rochers et de l'onde?'

Very rare: not noted by Allen for his La Pérouse "Check List". Ferguson notes only the National Library copy of this edition in Australia, and a second copy in the Bibliothèque Nationale. McLaren updated this list with a third copy held by the Mitchell Library.

Provenance: Dimetrius de Prié (Italian cavalry officer; his early signature on half-title); Mario and Fiammetta Witt (Olschki family members whose maritime collection was sold in the 1990s; with their bookplates).

Ferguson, 409a; McLaren, 'Lapérouse in the Pacific', 320; Sabin, 22880 (second edition only).

Price (AUD): $5,750.00

US$4,097.07   Other currencies

Ref: #5000494