A diplomatic mission to China

[East Asia - Lagrené mission]. Ship's log of the "Archimède".

At sea between Macao and Calcutta, 1846.

Folio (ca. 217 x 321 mm). 2 vols. French manuscript on paper (a few passages in English). 65 pp.; 76-106, (3) pp. Includes a total of 75 blank ff.; several pages blank except for pagination. Contemporary blue full cloth. Marbled endpapers.


Anonymous journal of the voyage of the steamer "Archimède" to the Far East between 1844 and 1846 as part of a diplomatic mission to Qing-China led by Théodose de Lagrené (1800-62), aiming to reach a contract similar to the 1842 Treaty of Nankin with the British. The mission was a success: the Treaty of Whampoa, which resulted in the opening of five Chinese ports for trade with the West, was signed aboard the "Archimède" on 24 October 1844. The commercial delegation aboard the ship under the command of admiral François-Edmond Pâris were charged with studying local industries and the potential of selling French goods to the East Asian market, a mission that led them to explore much of Indonesia as well as Calcutta in 1846.

The first volume covers the voyage from Macao to Singapore and Penang, then on to Calcutta in January and February 1846. It opens with several specifications of the ship, including loading and machinery, before going on to describe its voyage in Indonesia, mentioning a bay in the Anambas archipelago named after Pâris, who mapped part of the archipelago as an ensign aboard the corvet "Favorite" in 1830: "Dans la matinée du 19 depuis 5h 30' jusqu'à midi on fait des routes diverses pour entrer et sortir de l'archipel des Anambas que le commandant a la complaisance de nous faire visiter. En 1830 enseigne de Vaisseau sur la corvette La Favorite il a dressé la carte d'une partie de cet archipel en il nous mène jusqu'au fond de la bai nommé d'après lui Pâris" (p. 4). The account of Calcutta evinces a great fascination with the place, as the writer clearly admires its transformation from a small village to a centre of commerce and the capital of an Empire: "Quant à la ville de Calcutta elle même, la ville des Palais, City of Palaces, il me serait difficile d'exprimer convenablement l'antipathie, l'aversion qu'elle m'a inspiré. Certes il est difficile de ne pas admirer l'étonnante fortune de cette place qui n'était pas plus qu'un pauvre village il y a un siècle et qu'est aujourd'hui l'une des grandes places de commerce du monde & et la capitale d'un grand Empire" (p. 55f.). The description of Calcutta includes a bird's-eye pencil sketch of the Raj Bhavan, today the residence of the governor of West Bengal, deeming it "completely lacking in style" (p. 58f., transl.).

The second volume comprises notes on Hindu-Chinese countries, Cochinchina and Siam drawn from local periodicals, namely the "Singapore Chronicle" and the "Calcutta Journal". A separate list gives the composition of the population of Bangkok in 1828, indicating that the 800 Christians living there were mostly descendants from the Portuguese.

Bindings slightly rubbed and a little cockled in places; lightly bumped at extremities. In contrast to Pâris's journals of the Archimède campaign in 1844 and 1845, held at the Musée national de la Marine in Paris, the present set reflects the later, lesser-known part of the expedition in early 1846.


Barron, "La corvette à vapeur l'Archimède au bout du monde, allegro ma non troppo", in: Chronique d'histoire maritime (Commission française d'histoire maritime; Société française d'histoire maritime, 2016), pp. 67-83.

Art.-Nr.: BN#54480 Schlagwörter: , , ,