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October 26, 2007

“The favorable report of Texas doubtless hastened the recognition of the Republic by France”-Raines

26. BLANCHARD, [Henri] P[ierre Léon Pharamond], Adrien Dauzats & [Louis] E[ugène] Maissin. San Juan de Ulùa ou relation de l’expédition française au Méxique, sous les ordres de M. le Contre-Amiral Baudin; par MM. P. Blanchard et A. Dauzats. Suivi de notes et documents, et d’un aperçu général sur l’état actuel du Texas, par M.E. Maissin, Lieutenant de vaisseau, aide-de-camp de l’amiral Baudin. Publié par ordre du roi, sous les auspices de M. Le Baron Tupinier, alors Ministre de la Marine [verso of half title] A. Pihan de la Forest, Imp. de la Cour de cassation, Rue des Noyers, 37]. Paris: Chez Gide, Editeur, rue de Seine S.-G. 6 bis, 1839. vii [1 blank], 591 [1 blank] pp., 18 plates engraved on India-proof paper and mounted (as issued) with views of the West Indies and Mexico, scenes from the expedition and nautical subjects, numerous text engravings of similar subjects. 4to (30 x 20 cm), original half tan roan over purple and rose mottled boards, original green marbled endpapers, spine gilt with raised bands and gilt lettering. Spine faded with damage affecting one letter, moderate shelf wear, upper joint open but holding, lower joint starting, scattered mild to moderate foxing to text and plates (heavier on first and last leaves), first few leaves with slight nicks at top (not affecting any text). Lacking 2 preliminary leaves (pp. ix-xii) consisting of table of contents and plate list, which were never present in this copy. Front pastedown with contemporary pink printed label of noted bookseller Ch[arles] Chadenat, Librairie Américaine et Coloniale, 17 Quai des Grands-Augustins, Paris.

            First edition, large paper copy. Bancroft, Mexico V, p. 204: “The most exhaustive work on [the Pastry War] episode.” Brunet I, col. 963. Clark, Old South III:202: “Description of Pensacola Bay, fortifications, and the town, which the ship visited on July 1, 1839.” Graff 323. Howes B507. Palau 30412 (noting some copies are printed on china paper and/or with colored plates). Raines, p. 145. Sabin 5832: “Published at 45fr., or without vignettes, 25fr.”

            Streeter 1343: “This narrative is entered because of the account of Texas given by Maissin in Note XIII at pages [522]-572. Blanchard, who made the voyage, and Dauzats, who joined afterwards in writing the account, were both artists. Maissin (Louis-Eugène, 1811-1851) is listed in Larousse, Grand Dictionnaire Universel, Paris, [1865-1890] (Vol. 10, p. 970), as a naval officer and writer. The visit of the French officers to Brazoria, Houston, and Galveston in May, 1839, is first described (four pages) and then follows a thoughtful description of the country, its government, commerce, and social customs. The last is especially interesting. It seems that even at this late date the French charts, which were based on data of Spanish navigators, were a degree and a half in error for the longitude of Galveston, and in sailing from Veracruz, instead of finding themselves off Galveston, they found after a delay of two days that they were twenty marine leagues west of Galveston “et à peu de distance d’une rivière, le Brazos, non indiquée sur nos cartes” (p. 523).”

            Baudin’s fleet was sent to blockade Veracruz, which it did with great success, reducing the fortress with nothing more than naval gunfire. Baudin’s activities kept the Mexican military so distracted that they were unable to mount another expedition to recapture Texas. Most notably, Baudin’s force shot off Santa Anna’s leg. This international incident, known as the Pastry War, was launched on the flimsy pretext that Mexico had not properly paid some money due to a French baker in Tacubaya whose shop was invaded by Mexican army officers who locked him in a back room and devoured all of his pastries. It was independent Mexico’s first brush with a foreign power, and Texas even sent a naval vessel to help the French in their blockade.

            After the reduction of Veracruz, Baudin’s French fleet sailed to Texas where they were escorted by Thomas Jefferson Green to Col. Wharton’s. They spent several days with President Lamar and Dr. Ashbel Smith at the Texas capital, and then sailed by steamboat down Buffalo Bayou to Galveston. Maissin’s account of the newly independent Republic of Texas is one of the most colorful of the period and is believed to have hastened France’s recognition of the Republic of Texas.

            Eugène Maissin’s diary was translated into English and published in Salado, Texas, by Anson Jones Press in 1961 under title, The French in Mexico and Texas, 1838-1839. For more on the Texas background, see Handbook of Texas Online: Louis Eugène Maissin; also, Charles Baudin.

            The engraved plates printed on thin, high-quality India proof paper are an unusual medium, providing a finer image with more depth than those on ordinary paper. Because the technique of printing on India proof paper is extremely time-consuming, expensive, and challenging, engravings were seldom printed in this way. ($400-800)

Sold. Hammer: $700.00; Price Realized: $822.50

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