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

Lot 68: Dupetit-Thouars, Voyage Autour du Monde,

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A Magnificent Copy of “the Most Important of All Books Relating to
the History of California during the Mexican Period”

68. DUPETIT-THOUARS, Abel Aubert. Voyage Autour du Monde sur la Frégate la Vénus pendant les années 1836-1839, publié par ordre du Roi, sous les auspices du Ministre de la Marine, par M. Abel du Petit-Thouars, Capitaine de vaisseau, Commandeur de la Légion d’honneur. Paris: Gide, 1840-1844 & 1855.

Text volumes: 10 (of 11) vols. Wanting the extremely rare vol. 11 (on botany) published in 1864:

Vol. 1 (1840): [8] xliv, 402 pp., 5 letterpress tables (3 folded).
Vol. 2 (1841): [8] 464 pp., 1 letterpress table.
Vol. 3 (1841): [8] 490 pp., 6 letterpress tables (3 folded).
Vol. 4 (1845): [8] 178 pp., 1 folded letterpress table, 1 folded map (bound in Atlas Pittoresque).
Vol. 5 (1855): [4] 351 [1, blank] iii [1, blank] pp.
Vol. 6 (1842): [8] xviii [2] 464 [2, errata; bound in vol. 8] pp.
Vol. 7 (1842): [8] vii [1, blank] [2] 456 [2, errata; bound in vol. 8] pp.
Vol. 8 (1843): [8] iii [1, blank] 334 [4] pp.
Vol. 9 (1844): [8] v [1, blank] [2] 454 [1] [1, blank] pp., 2 letterpress folded tables, 1 letterpress folded chart, 1 engraved folded map, 1 engraved folded chart.
Vol. 10 (1844): [8] xxxix [1, blank] 472 pp.

Atlas: Voyage autour du Monde... Atlas hydrographique. [Paris]: Depot de la Marine, 1845. [2] pp., 16 uncolored lithographed maps (6 folded). Folio, very fine. (“A magnificent, and very rare, atlas”–Forbes.)

California maps:
Plan De La Baie De Monterey (Haute Californie). Levé et dressé en 1837, à bord de la Vénus, sous les ordres de Mr. Du Petit-Thouars, Captne. deVaisseaux, Officier de la Legion d’Honneur par Mr. de Tessan, Ingénieur Hydrographe de la Marine. Publié Par Ordre Du Roi Sous le Ministère de M. le Baron De Mackau, Vice Admiral, Pair de France, Secrétaire d’Etat au Département de la Marine et des Colonies. Au Dépôt-général de la Marine en 1844. [lower left below neatline]: Grave par Jacobs. [right below neat line]: Prix. Deux Francs. 59.4 x 88.2 cm; 23-3/8 x 34-3/4 inches. “Avertissement” and “Table de Réduction des Mètres en Brasses et en Pieds” at lower left.

Croquis Des Atterrages De La Baie De San-Francisco (Haute Californie) Levé et dressé en 1837, à bord de la Vénus, sous les ordres de Mr. Du Petit-Thouars, Captne. de Vaisseaux, Officier de la Legion d’Honneur par Mr. de Tessan, Ingénieur Hydrographe, secondé par MM. Chiron du Brossai, Capt de Corvette et Ménard, Elève de 1ère. Classe. Publié Par Ordre Du Roi Sous le Ministère de M. le Baron De Mackau, Vice Admiral, Pair de France, Secrétaire d’Etat au Département de la Marine et des Colonies. Au Dépôt-général de la Marine en 1844. [lower left below neatline]: Grave par Jacobs. [right below neat line]: Prix. Un Franc. 42.5 x 59.1 cm; 16-3/4 x 23-1/4 inches. “Avertissement” at upper left and “Table de Réduction des Mètres en Brasses et en Pieds” at upper right.

Atlas: Voyage autour du Monde...Atlas de Zoologie. Paris: Gide, 1846. [6] pp., 79 engraved plates (75 colored). Folio, bird plates significantly browned, else very fine. (“Plates of outstanding quality”–Forbes).

Atlas: Voyage autour du Monde...Atlas de Botanique. Paris: Gide, 1846. [6] pp., 28 uncolored engraved plates. Folio, very fine.

Atlas: Voyage autour du Monde...Atlas Pittoresque. Paris: Gide, 1841. [8] pp., 17 lithographed color plates, 49 lithographed plates on tinted grounds (26 mounted on India paper), 1 uncolored lithograph, 1 uncolored lithographed map, 1 folded colored map. Folio, some of the plates on tinted grounds are moderately to heavily foxed.

California plates are:
Vue de l’entree de la baie de San-Francisco (hte. Californie). [left below neat line]: Menard del; [right below neat line]: Sabatier lith. 10.5 x 28.2 cm; 4-3/8 x 11-1/4 inches.

[Left image]: Costume de la Haute Californie. [lower left]: Lith par P. Blanchard. 19 x 11 cm; 7-1/2 x 4-1/2 inches. [right image]: Dame de Monterey. [lower right]: Lith par P. Thierry Freres, Paris. 18.5 x 8 cm; 7-1/2 x 3-1/4 inches.

Indigenes de la Haute Californie. [left is untitled image of Native American woman]; [left below image]: Masselot del. 16 x 9 cm; 6-3/4 x 3-1/2 inches. [right is untitled image of Native American man]; [right below image]: Lith par Blanchard. 17 x 8 cm; 7-1/2 x 3 inches.

Carte Générale Du Globe Pour servir aux voyage de circumnavigation De La Frégate La Vénus Sous le commandement de M. Du Petit-Thouars Capitaine de Vaisseaux, Commandeur de La Legion d’honneur 1836-1839. 58.5 x 86 cm; 23-1/4 x 33-7/8 inches. Hand-colored lithograph. Except for repaired tear at lower right (barely into image), very fine.

8vo and folio, original black-and-white marbled boards (skillfully rebacked in smooth tan calf with original extra gilt spines with black and red leather labels preserved and neatly laid down), t.e.g. Occasional mild to moderate spotting and foxing, otherwise fine. From the library of Baron René Reille (1832-1898), with his small ink stamp on each title page and spines stamped in gilt R.R. After spending his early years as a military man, Reille became a politician, served as a representative from Tarn and an Undersecretary of State in France. A magnificent set.
    First edition. Bagnall 1750. Barrett 743: “I have never seen a complete copy of this at one time.” Borba de Moraes, pp. 276-277. Brunet II, 890. Ellis, Early Prints of New Zealand (1978), p. 57. Ferguson 2970. Fine Bird Books (1990), p. 131. Forbes, Hawaiian National Bibliography 1198, 1333, 1526, 1586, 1588, 2132 & 2562 (with some variations in his collation from those here, and noting of Vol. 11 “because this small text volume appeared so many years after the main series of the is frequently missing from sets”). Hill 518: “One of the most important and complete records of the Mexican period in California.” Hocken 42. Howell 38, Natural History 135b:  “This work contains very important source material on the American Northwest and the Pacific, including the best account of the state of affairs in California during the Mexican regime.... Complete sets of this work are extremely difficult to obtain.” Howell, Americana 173. Howes P267. Judd 58. Libros Californianos (Dawson-Howell List of Twenty Rarest). Nissen, BBI 561. Nissen, IVB 281. Nissen, ZBI 1211. O’Reilly & Reitman 968-971. Ragatz, A Guide for the Study of British Caribbean History, p. 165. Ronsil 944. Sabin 21354: “Fine work.” Streeter Sale 2495. Wood, Vertebrate Zoology, p. 327. Whittell, p. 220. Zimmer, p.490.
    Only the first four text volumes are by Dupetit-Thouars; the remaining six text volumes, which contain the scientific observations, are the reports of the mission’s scientists with occasional contributions by Dupetit-Thouars. Although partly a scientific mission that succeeded brilliantly, the journey was primarily an attempt to show the French flag in the Pacific and to bolster French interests there, at which it also succeeded. The mission’s reports contain what is generally believed to be the most accurate such reports about California in 1837. Among the new but sometimes overlooked information in these volumes are the meteorological and magnetic variation reports (vol. 6, pp. 261-342, 463; vol. 8, pp. 37-48, 249-250; vol.9, pp. 217-226), which were probably the most detailed such statistics on Monterey and Baja California published up until that time. Dupetit-Thouars’s remarks on Upper California are at vol. 2, pp. 77-140. A man of the Catholic faith, he is dismayed by the state of that religion in the area, noting that priests are reduced to saying mass for a few old women, thereby threatening that the present generation will have no religious principles (vol. 2, p. 88).
    Bancroft, who never saw a copy of the Atlas, characterizes the work as the most important of all books relating to the history of California during the Mexican period, 1824-1846, and states that “from no other single work could be obtained so complete and accurate an account of the country, its people, and its institutions.” He states that Dupetit-Thouars was the first of visitors to collect original documents–here published with translations–and yet “for the most part unknown to other writers” (California IV, pp. 147-149). The magnificent plates are a credit to a country where those printing arts had already been brought to a high level. The Atlas Pittoresque contains some of the finest lithographs of the nineteenth century, with views and scenes of San Francisco Bay, Rio de Janeiro, Honolulu, Mazatlan, San Blas, Sydney, Lima, and other ports. The plates showing various natives are all hand-colored.


French interest in scientific exploration along with commercial reconnaissance following the establishment of independent nations in the Americas was coupled with an ongoing search for the lost expedition of Jean-François Galaup de Lapérouse in the early nineteenth century. In command of the frigate Vénus, Vice-Admiral Abel Dupetit-Thouars sailed from Brest in December 1836. Crossing the Atlantic and rounding Cape Horn, Dupetit-Thouars visited Valparaiso, Callao, and Honolulu, and reached Kamchatka in August 1837. From there he recrossed the north Pacific to the California coast, anchoring in Monterey, and proceeding southward also visited Mazatlán, San Blas, and Acapulco, reaching the Galápagos in January 1838. In July, Vénus sailed for the Marquesas and in late August reached Papeete. Continuing to New Zealand and to Sydney, Dupetit-Thouars crossed the Indian Ocean, rounded the Cape of Good Hope, and reached Brest in June 1839.
    The relatively low number of scientists among the ship’s officers demonstrates the principal commercial aim of the voyage, and reports on the potential for whaling activities and possibilities of opening trade in Kamchatka and the California and Mexican coasts are of major importance to this end. Dupetit-Thouars comments in detail on the unstable political situation in Monterey and Mexico, the lack of defense and generally depressed conditions, and discusses the potential for gaining French predominance there and in Hawaii. Whale species, migration patterns, and populations in the north, central, and south Pacific are detailed as are observations regarding whaling by other nations. Although of secondary importance in the mission of the voyage, extensive scientific observations were made and reported, especially in the areas of hydrographics: currents, soundings, temperatures, and detailed charts. In the field of zoology, numerous reptiles were described as were fifteen hundred mollusks, and the narrative of the voyage includes one volume devoted to this discipline, one to botany, and four to physical science.

    The successor to Auguste Bernard Duhaut-Cilly (1826-1829) and predecessor of Eugène Duflot de Mofras (1839-1842) (q.v.), Dupetit-Thouar’s presence in Mexican territory was clearly related to French interest in obtaining territory, specifically California, in exchange for forgiveness of the rapidly increasing Mexican national debt to French financiers, or, minimally, acquiring commercial dominance in the area. His presence there corresponded with the buildup to the Pastry War (so named because of an exaggerated claim by a French pastry maker in Mexico City for unpaid consumption of his wares by Mexican soldiers), the French blockade, bombardment, and invasion of Veracruz between March and December 1838 to enforce collection of claims by French citizens against the Mexican government. The French maritime presence in the Pacific was cause for concern, although the voyage was not directly related to the war. The most extensive account of French voyages around the world during the period, Dupetit-Thouars’s Voyage is highly prized.

––W. Michael Mathes

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