First edition of Labillardière's famous voyage in search of La Pérouse, with 44 plates, including 14 after Redouté

Labillardière, Jacques Julien Houton de. Relation du voyage a la recherche de la Pérouse, fait par ordre de l'Assemblée Constituante, pendant les années 1791, 1792, et pendant la 1ère. et la 2de. année de la République Françoise. (Including:) Atlas pour servir à la Relation du voyage à la recherche de la Pérouse [...].

Paris, H. J. Jansen, an VIII [= 1799/1800].

3 vols. 4to (2 text volumes) and folio (atlas). XVI, 442 pp. 332, 113, (1) pp. Atlas with engr. title page, large folding map (590 x 865 mm) and 43 full-page engr. plates (numbered 2-44), including 14 botanical plates drawn or completed by Pierre-Joseph Redouté. Modern mottled half calf, each spine with gold decorated rules and 2 green sheepskin labels, decorated paper sides ("schrottel"/sprinkled pattern over a paste wash), text volumes with sprinkled edges.


First edition of Labillardière's famous and finely illustrated narrative, a classic work of travel literature. The mysterious disappearance of the great French explorer Jean François Galaup de La Pérouse led to much speculation in France. On 9 Feb. 1791 the Constituent Assembly passed a decree ordering, among other things, that the King be petitioned to order the fitting out of one or more ships equipped with naturalists, scientists and draughtsmen, with the twofold mission of searching for M. de la Pérouse and of making inquiries relative to the sciences and to commerce. Two ships, La Recherche under the command of Rear-Admiral D'Entrecasteaux and L'Espérence under the command of Captain Kermadec, were fitted out. Proceeding via the Cape of Good Hope to Tasmania, they made extensive investigations of its coastline. They also visited New Caledonia, the Solomon Islands, the Admiralty Islands, Tonga, New Britain and other groups, making extensive inquiries, but found no trace of the missing navigator (cf. Ferguson). The voyage, however, yielded a vast amount of new and valuable information on Australia's natural history and the aboriginal people of Tasmania.

Plates include views of the Admiralty Islands, Tasmania, New Caledonia, New Zealand, Tonga and impressive portraits of their inhabitants, while other plates show ethnographical objects, birds and plants. Most plates were engraved by Copia or Perée after Piron. The botanical plates were engraved after drawings by the celebrated Belgian botanical artist Pierre Joseph Redouté (10 plates) and after Piron, completed by Redouté (4 plates). Three of the four ornithological plates were engraved after Jean Baptiste Audebert.

In the same year Janssen also published an 8vo edition, followed by several editions in French, German and English. In 1826 some materials from La Pérouse's ships were traced back to the island Vanikoro, and a 1964 expedition identified the remains of one of his ships there. Further investigations concluded that both both ships were wrecked there and that most of the men who survived the wreck were killed by natives. A few eventually left the island, but their fate remains unknown.

Each text volume has the library stamp of the British Admiralty Office on the title and final page, those on the title pages with cancellation stamp. Plates mounted on new stubs, a few plates slightly frayed along the edges, some mostly marginal foxing and occasionally other spots or smudges, more serious in the title pages and half-titles, otherwise in very good condition.

Nissen, ZBI 2331. Ferguson 307. Hocken, New Zealand, 28f. Kroepelien 697. Sabin 38420. Stafleu/C. 4070. Cf. Hill 178 (8vo ed.). Not in Catalogue of Redoutéana.

Stock Code: BN#44120 Tags: , , , ,