Rare Book Monthly

Book Catalogue Reviews - April - 2010 Issue

Voyages, Americana, Atlases, Science and More from Les Trois Islets

Trois5

A variety of works from Les Trois Islets.


By Michael Stillman

We recently received the fifth catalogue from French bookseller Les Trois Islets. The rare book seller is located in the town of Saint-Briac sur mer in Bretagne on France's northern coast. This catalogue is primarily in the French language, but we will translate the title to A Selection of 150 Books: Voyages - Americana - Atlas - Marine (Exploration, science and technology, military art). While there is a preponderance of French works in this catalogue, there are numerous others also to be found. From an American standpoint, you will find both items of French Americana and first French editions of books of American interest. This catalogue offers a wide variety of works including many of great importance. Here are a few of the 150 inside its covers.

Item 13 is a very early look at the New World, particularly New France in North America. Marc Escarbot was a scholar and writer who was invited to visit the new French colony of Acadia in 1606. On this and a subsequent voyage, Escarbot learned much about the French colonies and the native tribes. On his return home, Escarbot wrote the book Histoire de la Nouvelle France... which was published in 1609. He covers discoveries made by other explorers, including in Florida and Brazil, but then focuses on the area now known as Canada. While part he learned from others, including Champlain's early visits, he also presents much from his own first-hand knowledge or from others with whom he spoke directly. Escarbot's work is generally regarded as a "reliable" account of life in New France at the turn of the 17th century. This first edition, published in Paris, is extremely rare (it was described as "very rare" in 1917 in the Huntington catalogue). Price on request.

Item 1 is a book in French by a French diplomat, but it is likely to be of greatest interest to collectors of Americana. It is Histoire de la Louisiane et de la Cession de Cette Colonie par la France aux Etats-Unis... published in 1829. Author Francois Barbe-Marbois was appointed by Napoleon to conduct the preliminary negotiations which led to the sale of the Louisiana Territory to the United States in 1803. President Jefferson had only been looking to purchase a small amount of land at New Orleans to guarantee American access to the Mississippi, only to be surprised by Napoleon's willingness to sell the entire territory. The purchase instantly doubled the size of the United States. Barbe-Marbois recounts the history of the territory and describes the negotiations that led to this momentous event in American history. €1,200 (euros, or roughly $1,623 in U.S. dollars).

Item 71 is the account of a voyage that was as popular to the French as Cook's voyages were to the English. Jean-Francois de La Perouse led a mission to the Pacific in 1785 that lasted until 1788. His explorations were extensive, visiting numerous Pacific islands, including Hawaii, the west coasts of North and South America, including the coast from California to Alaska, Japan, Russia, China, and finally Australia. At several of his stops, La Perouse sent back his notes, which eventually became the basis of this account. However, La Perouse and his crew did not return. They disappeared after leaving Australia's Botany Bay and were never heard from again. Their disappearance was a mystery for 40 years until wreckage of their ships was finally discovered on the isolated island of Vanokoro. It is fortunate that La Perouse sent his notes back with others, enabling the publication in 1797 of this five-volume first edition of Voyage de La Perouse autour du monde... €22,000 (US $29,782).

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