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Auction 15: Fine Collection of Californiana Formed by Daniel G. Volkmann Jr.

Lot 40: The Choris

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Choris in the Preferred Issue
One of the Fifty Copies in Full Color

40. CHORIS, Louis. Voyage Pittoresque Autour du Monde, avec des Portraits de Sauvages d’Amérique, d’Asie, d’Afrique, et des Iles du Grand Océan.... Paris: Didot, 1820, 1822. [6] vi pp., frontispiece, 12 plates; 17 [1, blank] pp., 10 plates; [3]-20 pp., 14 plates; 10, 3 [1, blank] pp., 19 plates, text engraving of music; 24 pp., 19 plates, text engraving of music; 22 pp., 23 plates, text engraving of music; 28 pp., 7 plates, text engraving of music; 19 [1, blank] 6 [4] pp., 2 charts, 1 folded map [105 plates of Native life, culture, scenes, and natural history of the Pacific (all but 2 by Choris or after Choris by V. Adam, Franquelin, Norblin, or Morlet; 1 after Albert de Chamisso; 1 unsigned): 1 uncolored lithographed portrait (frontispiece) + 102 hand-colored lithographed plates + 2 hand-colored copper-engraved plates; as well as 3 engraved text cuts (music, including “Air Californien”), 2 lithographed charts, and folded engraved map].

Folio, three-quarter new sympathetic brown calf over contemporary black and brown marbled boards preserving original endpapers, spine gilt-lettered (the original spine has been preserved separately), edges sprinkled. Except for minor shelf wear to binding and intermittent mild foxing and browning to interior, a fine, tall copy (41.5 cm; 16-1/4 inches), with fresh, vibrant coloring. Front pastedown with contemporary leather label stamped in gilt with armorial crest and Russian initials, old printed shelfmark sticker in Russian with numbers in ink, and two old notes in pencil and ink marked out later in pencil. This copy belonged to Mr. Volkmann’s mother, Beatrice Simpson Volkmann; Mr. Volkmann acquired this copy from her in 1969. A splendid copy, with the full complement of plates in full color, the two engraved title pages present, and handsomely bound.

Charts & map:

(Map 1a) Plan du Groupe des Iles Rumanzoff.... Lithographed map. 17.3 x 22.6 cm; 6-7/8 x 8-7/8 inches. On a sheet with:

(Map 1b) Carte des Iles Radack et Ralik. Lithographed map. 22.6 x 16.4 cm; 8-7/8 x 6-1/2 inches.

(Map 2) Carte du Grand Océan Pour servir oau Voyage du M. O. de Kotzebue author du Monde de 1815 à 1818 [below neat line]: Gravé à Paris, par Ambroise Tardieu, Graveur du Dépôt Général de la Marine. Copper-engraved folded map with tracks of the voyage and those of Magellan, Kotzebue, and Kruzenshtern hand-colored in red, green, grey, and yellow. 51.7 x 44.7 cm; 20-3/8 x 17-5/8 inches.

California plates:

Untitled coastal views of Point Reyes, entrance to the port of San Francisco, and Farallon Islands. 17.5 x 30.7 cm; 6-7/8 x 12-1/4 inches.

Vue du Presidio Sn. Francisco. [below neat line]: Litho. de Langlumé r de l’Abbaye N 4. | Lith. par V. Adam d’après Choris. 17 x 30.5 cm; 6-3/4 x 12 inches.

Danse des habitans de Californie à la mission de St. Francisco [below neat line]: par Franquelin d’après Choris. | Litho. de Langlumé r de l’Abbaye N 4. 17.6 x 30.3 cm; 7 x 11-15/16 inches.

Le jeu des habitans de Californie à la mission Sn. Francisco. [below neat line]: Litho par Norblin d’après Choris. | Litho. de Langlumé r de l’Abbaye N 4. 19 x 27 cm; 7-1/2 x 10-3/4 inches.

L’Ours gris de l’Amérique Septentrionale. (Ursus Griseus [Calif?]) [below image]: dessé et Lithé par Choris. | Litho. de Langlumé r de l’Abbaye No. 4. [image area] 11 x 21.5 cm; 4-7/16 x 8-1/2 inches.

Habitants de Californie [below image]: desé et Lithé par L. Choris. [image area] 15 x 33.2 cm; 6 x 13-1/4 inches.

Habitants de Californie [below image]: Lith. par Marlet | desé par L. Choris. [image area] 18 x 29.3 cm; 7-1/4 x 11-1/2 inches.

Armes et ustensiles de Californie [below image]: dessiné et Lith. par L. Choris. [image area] 16 x 29 cm; 6-3/4 x 11-1/2 inches.

Bateau du port de Sn. Francisco. [below neat line]: Litho. de Langlumé rue de l’Abbaye No 4 | Lith. par Norblin d’aprés Corris. 17.2 x 25.8 cm; 6-3/4 x 10-1/8 inches.

Jeune lion marin de la Californie. [below image]: desé et Lith. par Choris | Lith. par Langlumé. [image area] 9.8 x 20.7 cm; 4 x 11-3/4 inches.

Coiffures de danse des habitans de la Californie. [below image]: dess. et Lith. par Choris | Lith. de Langlumé. [image area] 16 x 27 cm; 6-1/4 x 10-5/8 inches.

Echolovonis á la chasse dans la baie de St. Francisco. [below neat line]: lithé par Franquelin d’après Choris. | Lith. de Langlumé, r de l’Abbaye No. 4. 18.5 x 23.5 cm; 7-1/4 x 9-1/4 inches.

     First edition, first issue (with both 1820 and 1822 title pages present), with all plates colored (only 50 copies issued in this preferred state), frontispiece portrait of Count Romanzof rather than of Choris (which was probably issued later). Part IV, plate III is state B; part V, plate II is state C, plate III is state B, and plate XVI is state A (see the brilliant notes and analysis by David W. Forbes in Hawaiian National Bibliography; his in-depth research includes the information that in 1823 Nouvelle Annales des Voyages published notice that the work was printed on Velin paper, contained 105 plates, with the price of uncolored plates at 160 francs, natural history plates colored at 200 francs, and all plates in color at 320 francs).
    Borba de Moraes, p. 180: “Rare, and notably expensive.” Cowan I, p.47. Cf. Cowan II, p. 123. Forbes, Hawaiian National Bibliography 541: “Spectacular and early lithographically illustrated travel account that has always been considered one of the most beautiful and important colorplate books of the Northern Pacific. It contains more early views of Hawaii, Alaska, and California than any other work of the period.” Forbes, Treasures 29. Graff 699. Hill I, pp. 51-52: “Choris was the artist of the Kotzebue expedition.... Of great American interest.... Considered to be one of the most beautiful books of travel in existence. Complete copies with all the plates colored are very rare.” Hill 290. Howell 52:520: “The most important nineteenth-century color plate book of the Pacific Ocean.” Howell, Americana 135; Anniversary Catalogue 30. Howes C397. Lada-Mocarski 84: “Lithographs of great beauty... One of the very valuable and fundamental works on Alaska, California, and the Hawaiian Islands.” Majors 27506: “Among the finest early pictorial representations of the Northwest Coast.” Miles & Reese, Creating America 99. Peters, California on Stone, pp. 97-98. Rader 815. Russica C654. Sabin 12884. Streeter Sale 2461: “The work has great American interest because of its lithographs and its accounts of California, the Hawaiian Islands, the Aleutian Islands, St. Lawrence Island in the Behring Sea and Kotzebue Sound in Alaska.—TWS.” Van Nostrand, First Hundred Years of Painting in California, pp. 8-9 & 92. Wickersham 6676.
    Among the many extraordinarily beautiful scenes and views of native life, artifacts, and natural history are twelve plates relating to California, nineteen of the Hawaiian Islands, and twenty-three of Alaska. One of the text engravings is “Air Californien” (the earliest printed record of California music).

The plates were lithographed by or directly under the supervision of Choris, who also prepared a few finished drawings from the voyage for publication in the 1821 Russian edition of Kotzebue. Choris engraved those drawings on copper, a medium in which the artist was not as proficient as in stone (see Jean Charlot’s Choris and Kamehameha, Honolulu: Bishop Museum Press, 1958). In the present work about ninety of the lithographs were drawn by Choris directly on the lithographic stone, resulting in spectacular lithography imparting a real immediacy and connection to Choris’s original artwork. Ron Tyler, in his Prints of the West, discusses how artists’ original artworks were often degraded by those involved in the intervening process of transforming original artwork to prints for publication, and comments: “The artist, of course, was not completely responsible for the print, having to depend on draftsmen, lithographers or engravers, printers, and publishers for the final product. Louis Choris drew some of his pictures on the stone, and Bodmer insured the quality of his work by supervising the printmakers, but others were less fortunate” (p. 158; see also plate 2, p. 18 illustrating Choris’s plate of the presidio of San Francisco from the present work). It seems clear from the footnote on the final page the publisher Gide Fils also had some financial interest in this book.


The European Enlightenment reached Russia under the reign of Catherine the Great (1762-1796) and the eastward expansion under Peter the Great saw fruition in the establishment of Kodiak by Grigor I. Shelikhov and the Russian-American Company in 1783. With a base in Alaska, the Russian Academy of Sciences entered the field of scientific exploration, and, given that communication and supply to the American outpost through Siberia via Yakutsk, Irkutsk, Okhotsk, and Petropavlovsk required over two years and was extremely arduous, maritime routes from St. Petersburg to Kodiak were established by the Admiralty and its modernized fleet.
     The first Russian circumnavigation under Ivan Fedorovich Kruzenshtern and Iurii Lisianskii in 1803-1806 via Kodiak and Sitka, founded in 1804, met with success, but the Napoleonic Wars interrupted subsequent voyages and brought isolation to Alaska. As a result, the Russian-American Company, encroaching upon Spanish territory, expanded to Rumiantsev (Bodega) and Ross north of San Francisco in 1812 in an attempt to establish agricultural and stock-raising enclaves, and initiated voyages from Alaska to Kauai in the Hawaiian Islands.
     The defeat of Napoleon in 1814 reopened the sea lanes for maritime supply to Alaska and to scientific navigation, and lieutenant Otto von Kotzebue (1788-1846), who had been a young cadet on the Kruzenshtern voyage, was appointed to command the second Russian circumnavigation in 1815 with a single ship, the brig Rurik. Ludovik (Louis) Choris [Login Andreevich Khoris] (1795-1828), a Russian of German descent, was appointed as artist on the crowded ship, serving with thirty-three men, first officer G. S. Shismarev, artist-naturalist Adelbert von Chamisso, M. Wormskiold, physician Johann Friedrich Eschscholtz, and navigators V. Khromchenko and V. Petrov. Sailing from Kronstadt in July 1815, the Rurik crossed the Atlantic, rounded Cape Horn, and visited Concepción, Easter Island, and the Tuamotu Archipelago, arriving at Petropavlovsk in June 1816. From Kamchatka, the expedition conducted extensive exploration of Bering Strait and rested at Unalaska in the Aleutians before sailing southward in September. In October Kotzebue and his men were well received at San Francisco by commandant José Darío Argüello and governor Pablo Vicente Solá, who traveled from Monterey for the purpose. Arrangements for supplies for the expedition and for Fort Ross were made, as were agreements for the release of Russian prisoners; however Solá formally registered his complaint over Russian encroachment at Bodega and Ross. The commandant of Ross, Ivan Aleksandrovich Kuskov, traveled to San Francisco to participate in negotiating differences, and after three days of discussion, Kuskov declined further talks regarding the company’s presence, and Kotzebue agreed to present the Spanish concerns before the Imperial Court upon his return.
     During the monthlong halt in San Francisco, the scientists of the Rurik made extensive geographic, ethnographic, botanical, and zoological observations, including studies of the California grizzly and the earliest description of the California poppy, made by Eschsholtz. Sailing from San Francisco in November, the expedition anchored at Kauai for three weeks, explored to the south, and returned to Unalaska where the Rurik was repaired. In June, Kotzebue sailed to the Bering Strait, but had to return due to heavy ice. Departing Unalaska in August, and after further repairs in Manila, the expedition rounded the Cape of Good Hope and anchored in Kronstadt in July 1818.
     Supplementing Kotzebue’s Entdeckungs-Reise in die Süd-See und nach de Berings-Strasse... (1821) and Chamisso’s Werke (1856), while living in Paris from 1819 to 1827 Choris employed the newly developed process of etching on stone, lithography, to produce some of the most extraordinary plates to appear in relation to a scientific voyage. Noted for their accuracy and lack of romanticism or other exaggerations, these plates illustrate observations made during the voyage from Kronstadt to Chile, Easter Island, Kamchatka and Siberia, San Francisco and northern California, and the Hawaiian, Radak, Aleutian, St. George, St. Paul, St. Lawrence, Mariana, and Philippine islands, and are considered fundamental to ethnographic, botanical, and zoological descriptions of these areas. A map by J. B. B. Eyriès, who aided Choris with translation of the texts to French, delineates the route of the Rurik, and texts by Cuvier, Chamisso, and Gall are included. During a return visit to the Antilles and Mexico in 1828, tragically Choris was killed by bandits in central Mexico.

——W. Michael Mathes

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