“Generally accepted as the first book in the English language which describes Texas” (Sibley)

Click thumbnails to open zoomable images.

476. PAGÈS, Pierre-Marie-François de. Travels Round the World, in the Years 1767, 1768, 1769, 1770, 1771. By Monsieur De Pagès, Captain in the French Navy, Chevalier of the Royal and Military Order of St. Louis, and Corresponding Member of the Academy of Sciences in Paris. Translated from the French. London: Printed for J. Murray, No 32, Fleet Street, 1791. Vol. I: [i-iii] iv-xiv, [1] 2-289 [1, blank], folded aquatint frontispiece (Scene in the Desert of Arabia | A. Callander Pinx.t | J. Sanders Aquata Fec.t Dec.r 1790 | London 1st Jany 1792 Publishd...); Vol. II: [i-iii] iv, [1] 2-261 [i.e. 257] [3, ads] pp. 2 vols., 8vo (21 x 13.4 cm), contemporary full tree sheep, spine gilt decorated, gilt-lettered red leather spine labels. Original bindings professionally restored; interior very good except for moderate browning to titles and endsheets; frontispiece trimmed with slight loss of a few words of publisher’s imprint at bottom below image; both volumes with useful pencil marginalia providing modern place names (e.g., “Naquadoch” for Nacogdoches, “Rheda” for Laredo, etc.).

     First English edition. Marilyn McAdams Sibley states that this first London edition “is generally accepted as the first book in the English language which describes Texas.... The most convincing witness to Pagès accuracy is Alexander von Humboldt, a man of science noted for his careful observations” (“Across Texas in 1767: The Travels of Captain Pagès” in Southwestern Historical Quarterly 70, July 1966-April 1967, p. 595). This first English edition provides the author’s narrative of his voyage from his embarkation to his return to France in 1771. A second English edition came out in 1793, in three volumes, and the two translations vary slightly. All of the content on America and Texas is in this first edition in English. Hill (I, pp. 526 & II:1285) in his note to the second edition in English provides a good discussion of the bibliographical complexities of the English editions, which were very popular and widely read. JCB III (2, 1772-1800) #3477 (quoting Rich): “Written in a style persuasive of its veracity.” Clark, Old South I:285: “His account is objective and quite impersonal, and he has been commended by students of the region for his accuracy.” Cox I, p. 65. Howes P13. Sabin 58171. Sibley, Travelers in Texas 217. Tate, The Indians of Texas 1938: “A source rich in details on the Caddoes and the Lipan Apaches.” Streeter 1027 (cites the Philadelphia edition published in 1785). Wagner, Spanish Southwest 165a: “Pagès is supposed to have made a journey through Texas on horseback in 1767, passing from Natchitoches to the Rio Grande. The book contains numerous observations on Texas and the missions, but I have never been able to persuade myself that the author ever saw Texas. The work has all the appearance of being one made up in Paris, simulating a real journey, a common enough trick of the times.” See preceding entry herein for a discussion in which Streeter argues against Wagner’s theory that Pagès was an armchair traveller.

     French naval officer Pagès (1748-1793; Biographie universelle ancienne et moderne, Paris: Delegrave, 1870–1873) was born to a noble family in Toulouse and dreamed of finding the Northwest Passage, studying little-known tribes of the world, exploring the Indian seas for France, and seeing the world in its natural state. See preceding entry for more on Pagès. The sincerity of his motives has been questioned because upon arrival at the mouth of the Mississippi, he abandoned his ship and travelled into Texas. Upon his return to France he was forgiven his desertion, promoted to captain, and received the Croix de Louis. The question of whether Pagès had unofficial permission from France has never been sorted out satisfactorily, but it has been noted that Pagès’ travels likely were related to France’s old interest in Texas, which dated back to La Salle.

     Vol. I (Chapters II to IX, pp. 6-214) of the present edition contains the American portion of Pagès travels: sailing past Cuba and along the Gulf of Mexico to the mouth of the Mississippi with a sojourn in New Orleans; thence up the Mississippi and Red Rivers by canoe to Natchitoches; crossing by horseback into Texas and Mexico via the Old San Antonio Road (Los Adaés, Nacogdoches, Guadalupe and Colorado Rivers, San Antonio, Laredo). Among the towns he visited in Mexico were Saltillo, San Miguel de Allende, Querétaro, Mexico City, San Luis Potosí, Acapulco, etc. Pagès noted that the country along the Colorado River abounded with cattle and venison and described the region thus: “This country, perhaps one of the most beautiful in the world, consists in wide plains intersected with rivers and rivulets, on whose banks grow tufts of wood, containing various aromatic plants little known in Europe.” He states that were it not for his love of his native country, he would stay in Texas and take an Indian wife.

     Pagès descriptions of the large herds of “horned cattle” in Texas and Mexico are praised by Jack Jackson (Los Mesteños: Spanish Ranching in Texas, 1721-1821, Texas A&M University Press, 1986), pp. 73-77:

Oddly enough, it is to a Frenchman, Pierre-Marie-François de Pagès, that we owe our best description of the environment, appearance, and practices of the early ganaderos and their vaquero herdsmen. Perhaps Spanish chroniclers neglected to provide such a descriptiion because it was taken for granted that Texas raised cattle as everyone else did in Nueva España; that is, it was common knowledge, and it was not worth describing what everyone already knew. Not so with Monsieur de Pagès; to him it was all new and quite remarkable.

Arriving at Los Adaés in 1767, Pagès carefully noted the appearance of the “species of cavalry” which occupied the dismal post. He said that for pleasure they related the perils and hardships they regularly faced, boasted about their exploits in battle, or mounted their horses, “visiting and taming their cattle.” The common soldier’s dress consisted of a large hood and short cloak, adorned around the neck with broad stripes of gold lace. Beneath this was worn a “sort of under-waistcoast and breeches without a seam, but pieced together with buttons of gold and silver and commonly ornamented with lace.” To protect himself from arrows, the soldier also wore a greatcoat made of from three to four folds of deerskin quilted with cotton, a garment that the stockman no doubt wore as well. His stockings were made of skin, and a pair of “enormous spurs about 5 or 6 inches in length” armed his heels.

Pagès also was fascinated by the soldiers’ neatly dressed and stamped saddle leathers, describing them as garnished along with the edges with trinkets of steel which, like little bells, were kept perpetually ringing by the horse’s motion. “Ponderous stirrups” composed of massy bars of iron arranged in the shape of a cross and weighing at least 50 pounds were used to keep the rider steady in his seat, lending to a style the Spaniards considered most graceful. For Pagès, however, they caused a swelling of the legs and near dislocation of his joints. “In fine, the half savage Spaniard, with all this singular extravagance, is an excellent rider, and when completely equipped and mounted never failed to revive in my mind all the ideas of ancient chivalry.”

When Pagès reached the Brazos River, “in the province of Tegas,” he began to see “traces of horned cattle, which were originally tame, but have long since become wild, and now roam in large herds all over the plains.” He described a cow hunt—one hundred years before post-Civil War Anglo cowboys “invented” the activity—just as he later left a detailed account of a roundup in the vicinity of San Luis Potosí.

     Pagès goes on at length describing ranching as the predominant activity in San Antonio and environs, with livestock often serving as currency in commerce (Pagès tells how he traded his custom-made French shoes for a good horse). He describes the lasso in a very spirited way: “The inhabitants of San Antonio are excellent horsemen and particularly fond of hunting or lacing [lassoing] their wild animals” and observing that they seldom failed to capture their prey.

     Being an enlightened Frenchman imbued with the Jean-Jacques Rousseau’s philosophy of the Noble Savage, Pagès view of native tribes in America (and elsewhere) differed from that of other travellers and secular and religious authorities of the time. Pagés presented Native Americans in a positive light and attributed their downfalls, such as stealing, being due to interaction with Europeans.

     Pagès’ narrative continues as he travels to the Philippines, India, Arabia, Persia, Syria, and present-day Israel. The folding frontispiece in this edition does not relate to America and did not appear in other editions. The scene is a well-executed aquatint which dramatically illustrates in chiaroscuro a desert scene at night. In the foreground is the author in Bedouin dress and a massive castle to the right; in the background at left is an encampment of men in tribal dress with camels (text relating to scene is on p. 89 of Vol. II). The plate is after a painting by Royal Academy artist John Sanders (1750-1825; DNB and Bénézit VII, p. 503), whose work was frequently used for plates in travel books, such as John Meares’ Voyages. (London, 1790). The name of aquatint engraver A. Callander is unresolved: his first name is Alexander or Adam (likely the latter), and his surname is found spelled either Callender or Callander (Bénézit II, p. 260). The aquatint method of printmaking was discovered and used very briefly in mid-seventeenth century and then revived around 1770. Aquatint was especially effective for night scenes such as the present one. An interesting glitch is noticeable in the present dark scene. An attempt was made to credit the painter and engraver within the image, but the credits can barely be read. Thus, the credits appear a second time below the image.


Auction 23 Abstracts

Click thumbnails to open zoomable images.

DSRB Home | e-mail: