Rare Book Monthly

Articles - June - 2015 Issue

Cayenne, The Dry Guillotine. Part 3/3: Jean-Jacques Aymé, Affliction of Job


Deportation et Naufrage

A sort of Escape


When Ramel and his companions decided to run away from Sinnamary, it was a matter of life or death—and it was a straightforward escape. They crawled out of the fort where they were held prisoners, stole a small boat, putting their lives at risk by joining Dutch Guyana by sea. Aymé’s escape was far less romantic. As the political situation had changed in France, the deportees were convinced that they would soon be granted the right to join the island of Oleron, off France—which was a much more enviable fate. Everyday they expected the ship from France to enter Cayenne’s port with the said authorization. But time was getting short for Aymé: “Stuck with the danger of my bad health and the agitations of the colony, (...) and not seeing any vessel arrive from France, persuaded that I was authorized to repair to Oleron, and apprehensive of falling before I departed, I formed the resolution of seeing (an) American captain, named Gardner, and of proposing him to take me on board his vessel.” Aymé apparently had more money than Pitou or Ramel; this made his stay in hell much more comfortable. He paid the American captain and prepared to leave Guyana with two friends, Parizot and Perlet. But Barbé-Marbois and Lafond-Ladebat were more determined than ever not to run away from the wrath of their tyrants, and Aymé didn’t tell them about his project, which was soon carried out. “After having offered up our thanksgiving to the Supreme Being, Parizot, Perlet, and myself, embraced each other, as men who had just miraculously escaped death.” Aymé wrote that he intended to join Oleron, but his ship was wrecked on the coast of Scotland during a terrible tempest—he almost perished at the occasion, and he gave quite a detailed description of this adventure.


Unlike Ramel and Pitou, Jean-Jacques Aymé didn’t make it to the various historical dictionaries. He died in 1818, leaving this interesting testimony of a dark period in French history. His book is probably less fascinating than the two other ones, but its dull and resentful tone gives an idea of what these people went through in French Guyana. And it was just a beginning. Indeed, the deportations weren’t about to stop. In fact, a penitentiary was built in Cayenne—in the Anse du Chaton—in 1852 by Louis-Napoléon Bonaparte, who sent many political prisoners there. The “dry guillotine” remained very efficient: between 1854 and 1867, 17,000 prisoners were deported to Cayenne, and only 7,000 survived. At the end of the century, the Communards, who had rebelled against the government in 1871, were sent to Cayenne—including the famous Louise Michèle. But the penitentiary soon welcomed the ordinary recidivists—including Henri Charrière, made famous by Franklin J. Schaffner’s movie Papillon (1973). In 1938, the French government officially closed down the penitentiary, but the last deportees didn’t come back to France before 1953. This terrible place gave birth to many books and engravings (by the prisoners themselves most of the time). And the Zoummeroff sale that took place in Paris last year (see article) proved that many people are still interested in the fates of the people, guilty or not, who survived—or not—the tropical blade of the dry guillotine.


Thibault Ehrengardt


Rare Book Monthly

  • <b>Swann Auction Galleries, May 12:</b> <i>Westvaco–Inspirations for Printers,</i> 3 volumes, 1938-61. $200 to $300.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries, May 12:</b> Proef van Letteren, <i>Welk gegooten worden in de Nieuwe Haerlemsche Lettergietery,</i> 1768. $3,000 to $4,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries, May 12:</b> Paul Klee, <i>Bauhaus Ausstellung Juli – Sept.,</i> Weimar, 1923. $4,000 to $6,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries, May 12:</b> Michel Seuphor & Jozef Peeters, <i>Het Overzicht Nos.</i> 22-23-24, Antwerp, 1922. $3,000 to $4,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries, May 12:</b> Wolfrum & Co., <i>Modern Graphik, Serie I…,</i> complete portfolio, 1909. $1,200 to $1,800.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries, May 12:</b> <i>Gravure et Fonderie deC. Derriey: Specimen-Album,</i> Paris, 1862. $5,000 to $7,500.
  • <b><center>Sotheby’s<br>Science: Books and Manuscripts<br>15-25 May 2021</b>
    <b>Sotheby’s, 15-25 May:</b> Mary Anning. Autograph letter signed, to William Buckland, 24 November 1834. £50,000 to £70,000.
    <b>Sotheby’s, 15-25 May:</b> Bolyai. <i>Scientiam spatii absolute veram exhibens,</i> Maros Vásárhelyi, 1832-1833, 2 volumes, half calf. £50,000 to £70,000.
    <b>Sotheby’s, 15-25 May:</b> Vesalius.<br><i>De humani corporis fabrica,</i> Basel, 1555, modern crushed burgundy morocco. £15,000 to £20,000.
    <b><center>Sotheby’s<br>Science: Books and Manuscripts<br>15-25 May 2021</b>
    <b>Sotheby’s, 15-25 May:</b> Copernicus.<br><i>De revolutionibus orbium coelestium,</i> Nuremberg, 1543, later boards, Rostock duplicate. £70,000 to £100,000.
    <b>Sotheby’s, 15-25 May:</b> Payan-Dumoulin. Profusely illustrated manuscript of fossils, France, c.1875-1979. £15,000 to £20,000.
    <b>Sotheby’s, 15-25 May:</b> Albert Einstein. Autograph letter signed, to his son Albert, 4 November [1915]. £10,000 to £15,000.
  • <center><b>Forum Auctions<br>Images of Angling:<br>The David Beazley Collection<br>of Angling Prints<br>Online Sale<br>20th May 2021</b>
    <b>Forum Auctions, May 20:</b> Alken (Henry), after. Salmon Fishing; Fishing in a Punt; Pike Fishing, three works, 1820. £600 to £800.
    <b>Forum Auctions, May 20:</b> Early Images of Angling.- Hollar (Wenceslaus) Angling; River Fishing; and Salmon Fishing, after Francis Barlow, 3 engravings, [c. 1671]. £500 to £700.
    <b>Forum Auctions, May 20:</b> Rolfe (Henry Leonidas). <i>Studies of Fresh Water Fish,</i> 1851. £500 to £700.
    <center><b>Forum Auctions<br>Images of Angling:<br>The David Beazley Collection<br>of Angling Prints<br>Online Sale<br>20th May 2021</b>
    <b>Forum Auctions, May 20:</b> Morland (George), After. A Party Angling; The Anglers' Repast, a pair, mezzotints, 1789. £400 to £600.
    <b>Forum Auctions, May 20:</b> Pollard (James), After. Bottom Fishing; Anglers Packing Up, etchings with aquatint, 1831. £400 to £600.
    <b>Forum Auctions, May 20:</b> Angling's Age of Romance.- Sayer (Robert, publisher) & J. Bennett. The Angelic Angler, mezzotint, 1781; and another. £300 to £400.
    <center><b>Forum Auctions<br>Images of Angling:<br>The David Beazley Collection<br>of Angling Prints<br>Online Sale<br>20th May 2021</b>
    <b>Forum Auctions, May 20:</b> Fishing Satire.- London.- Roberts (Piercy). Patience at Paddington or angling in the Junction Canal, etching after Woodward, 1807; together with Woodward's 'Angling at Sadler's Wells', and another, 1794. £300 to £400.
    <b>Forum Auctions, May 20:</b> Fishing Satire - Cats Fishing.- Seymour (Robert). Waltonizing or - Green-land Fisherman, [c. 1830s]; together with 3 lithographs of cats fishing, [c. 1830s]. £300 to £400.
    <b>Forum Auctions, May 20:</b> Fishing Portraits.- Zoffany (Johan), After. Master James Sayer, at the age of 13, mezzotint by Richard Houston, 1772. £300 to £400.
    <center><b>Forum Auctions<br>Images of Angling:<br>The David Beazley Collection<br>of Angling Prints<br>Online Sale<br>20th May 2021</b>
    <b>Forum Auctions, May 20:</b> Wilkinson (Norman). Come to Britain for Fishing, lithographic poster, [c. 1947]. £300 to £400.
    <b>Forum Auctions, May 20:</b> Scottish Fishing.- Heath (William). Sporting in the Scottish Isles no. III. Salmon Fishing, 1835; and another. £150 to £200.
    <b>Forum Auctions, May 20:</b> Simpson (Joseph). The Border Angler, drypoint, [c. 1927]. £150 to £200.

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