Captain Louis De Freycinet and his Voyages to the Terres Australes
Price: 35.00 AUD
Quarto, 172 pages, bound in cloth with colour dustjacket. 92 items fully described and illustrated in colour throughout, with bibliography of principal references and an index. An important collection of printed and original manuscript and pictorial material relating to the two great French expeditions to Australia, the 1800 voyage under Captain Nicolas Baudin and the 1817 voyage of Captain Louis-Claude de Saulces de Freycinet. Louis de Freycinet is the figure who unites these two important voyages: he sailed with Baudin as a junior officer, quickly establishing himself as one of the great hydrographers, but also learning the demands of scientific exploration on the remote coastlines of Australia. He has a further claim on our attention, because he was ultimately the driving force behind the substantial official accounts of both voyages, work which would consume him for the rest of his life. For many years overshadowed by their two English contemporaries and rivals, Matthew Flinders and Phillip Parker King, recent years have seen a renewed interest in the French expeditions, with a deeper understanding of the real contributions they made to science and hydrography. The official accounts are distinguished by the exceptional quality of artistic vision coupled with the fullest command of the printing processes: the colour-plate "atlases" to their voyage accounts are among the most beautiful books ever published. They recorded objects, peoples, natural history and lands discovered, making it possible to communicate to the European public the beauty and curious richness of the South Seas. Freycinet's greatest personal monument was his work on charting the Australian coast, resulting in the magnificent large-format hydrographical atlas of 1812, the first genuine pilot of the Australian coast, and a towering achievement. The ferocious debate about the priority or otherwise of French mapping in Australia is a sad legacy of the Napoleonic Wars, particularly the vexed issue of Flinders' unreasonable detention in Mauritius by a governor who had been personally instructed by Baudin to extend every courtesy to the Englishman. Freycinet was greatly pained by the accusation that he had made use of these circumstances to copy English work, and specifically the cartography of Matthew Flinders. Freycinet's tragedy is that this debate, continuing to some extent even today, has tended to belittle his prodigious legacy.