Jacques Arago: the blind artist's narrative

Jacques Etienne Arago (1790-1855) sailed as artist on Louis de Freycinet’s 1817 voyage around the world on the Uranie, and on his return devoted the rest of his life to writing about the voyage, and writing for the theatre. His account of the voyage here featured is very different to the huge official narrative, giving a highly readable and very personal, whimsical and humorous description of events and people. As he noted in the English version (Narrative of a Voyage, 1823) he set out to avoid the conventional forms of the voyage narrative and to ignore the ‘eternal repetition of winds, currents, longitude and lattitude’. By the time this version of his book reached the public, its remarkable author and artist had lost his sight: hence the new title used for the work of Souvenirs d’un aveugle. The lovely handcolouring in this edition means that Arago’s wonderful depictions of the Pacific are given full rein. Here they are present in the rare hand-coloured form. Seldom seen on the market, this should be ranked as one of the rarest and most prized Pacific or Australian colour-plate books.