A Touchstone of French Naval HistoryCharles Pierre Fleurieu, comte de Claret. Découvertes des François, en 1767 & 1769, dans le sud-est de la Nouvelle Guinée. Paris: De l'imprimerie royale, 1790.
First edition. Quarto. xvi, iv, 309 pages. Twelve folding engraved maps and plates. Extra-illustrated with five portraits from the French edition of Cook's Second Voyage tipped in throughout. Errata leaf bound after title, rather than at end. Several tables in text.
Early nineteenth-century quarter French sheep over marbled boards (a shell marble pattern), smooth spine decoratively tooled in gilt in compartments, gilt red morocco lettering label, all edges marbled. Gilt morocco bookplate affixed to front plate. Contemporary manuscript ownership signature at top edge of title; former library stamp to lower margin. Light wear to extremities and lower left corner of back cover. Title page very slightly soiled. A few tiny marginal tears to folding maps, one neatly reinforced. Overall an excellent copy.
An attractive copy of this touchstone of French naval history, with sections on Mendaña, Quiros, Carteret, Bougainville, Surville, Cook, La Pérouse, and Shortland, as well. An accomplished sailor and navigator who would eventually rise to the rank of Minister of the French Navy, in the work Fleurieu drew on unpublished manuscripts and printed narratives alike to paint his history, which overwhelmingly promotes the voyages of French explorers like Bougainville and Surville while denying the importance of the English voyages of discovery.
"Count Fleurieu, famous French statesman and scientist, was the leading light in the early history of French South Sea exploration. The maps in the volume are very curious and interesting. They were based on actual discoveries and on Fleurieu's theories. When D'Entrecasteaux returned from his fruitless search for La Perouse, it was found that these theories were in the main details correct. -- Maggs, No. 491" (in reference to the 1791 first edition in English, quoted in Cox). Cox II, p. 304. Ferguson 81.
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