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François Péron and Louis de Freycinet



François Péron, "Voyage de découvertes aux terres australes" (‘Voyage of Discovery to the Southern Lands’, three volumes, Paris, 1807–1816) included the Freycinet Map of 1811, the first published map showing the full outline of Australia.

Although Matthew Flinders was the first person to circumnavigate Australia, in Her Majesty’s ship the Investigator between 1801-1803, ironically it is the French who lay claim to publishing the first complete map of the Australian continent. Freycinet’s map was published in France in 1811 three years before Flinders’ own chart and appeared in the official account of the 1801-1804 French voyage to Australia commanded by Nicolas Baudin.

Nicolas Baudin (1754-1803) was given command of two ships Le Geographe and Le Naturaliste (under Captain Hamelin) with a large group of civilian scientists, including François Péron. Following his detailed instructions from the French Ministry of Marine, Baudin led the expedition to the coast of New Holland [Western Australia] to chart the coast and to collect specimens.
Following resupply in Timor, the ships then sailed to Van Diemen's Land [Tasmania] to make further studies there. Finally in March 1802 they sailed for the 'unknown coast', naming it Terre Napoleon, after the French Emperor. The French met the Flinders' expedition off Encounter Bay on 8-9 April 1802.

Baudin’s exploits in Australia commenced some seven months before Flinders arrived from Spithead in the Investigator. Rather than head for the uncharted south-east coast, Baudin instead sailed north up the west coast of Australia, occasionally landing at points previously uncharted by the earlier 17th century Dutch navigators, finally arriving at Timor. Meanwhile Flinders had set out from Cape Leeuwin in an easterly direction, with the intention of circumnavigating the continent. When Baudin eventually made it to the southern coast of Australia, Flinders had already charted a great deal of the previously uncharted south-eastern coast. The two parties finally crossed paths at Encounter Bay (east of Adelaide) on 8 April 1802. Baudin had managed to chart only a small 200-mile section of the coast west of Wilson’s Promontory.
Following his detailed instructions from the French Ministry of Marine, Baudin led the expedition to the coast of New Holland [Western Australia] to chart the coast and to collect specimens. Following resupply in Timor, the ships then sailed to Van Diemen's Land [Tasmania] to make further studies there. Finally in March 1802 they sailed for the 'unknown coast', naming it Terre Napoleon, after the French Emperor. The French met the Flinders' expedition off Encounter Bay on 8-9 April 1802. After spending 5 months recuperating in Sydney, Baudin led his expedition back to South Australian waters, to complete the charting of Terre Napoleon. After further work there and on the Western Australian coast, he sailed to Timor for resupply. His health failing and with many of his crew ill as well, Baudin sailed for Ile de France [Mauritius], abandoning the rest of his exploration of Australia. He died on of tuberculosis on Ile de France on 16 September 1803. Le Geographe returned to France in 1804, and the account of the expedition was written by François Péron and Louis de Freycinet. Although France at this time was at war with England, Flinders had been promised safe passage back to England. On his return however he was imprisoned by the French on Mauritius and held captive there for six and a half years.

Meanwhile the Baudin expedition had returned to France and the subsequent account of the voyage was published from 1807 onwards by Peron. In 1810, Peron died and Freycinet took over the task of completing the account. In 1811, Freycinet released the second part of the atlas, which contained this general chart of Australia. Flinders on the other hand had to wait until 1814 before he could publish his own general Australian map.
Nicolas Baudin's expedition to Australia, the great French voyage which rivalled Flinders's achievements. The expedition was commanded by Baudin for the Institute of France in 1800 and was charged with making a full and minute examination of the Australian coasts, particularly the southern coast "where there is supposed to be a strait communicating with the Gulf of Carpentaria and which consequently would divide New Holland into two large and almost equal islands." Baudin discovered some two hundred miles of coast between Encounter Bay and Cape Banks, thus completing the discovery of the unknown south coast begun by Flinders and Grant, and also reported in detail on Tasmania, Western Australia, and Sydney. Of further importance was the very large and excellent zoological collection prepared by Péron, naturalist on the voyage. The atlas plates to the historical narrative are by expedition artists Nicholas Petit and Charles Leseueur, and Petit's depictions of the aborigines are said to be "fairly true representations of his subjects." Vol. II of the historical narrative was completed by Freycinet after Péron's early death. The maps are superbly engraved, the large general map of Australia with a fine illustrated cartouche. The work was continued and completed in Freycinet's Partie Navigation et Gographie, 1812. Ferguson 449; Hill 1329; Nissen ZBI 3120; Sabin 60998; Wantrup 78a and 79a.
As a further blow to Flinders’ psyche, the Baudin / Freycinet map of Australia ignored entirely the English contribution to the charting of the southern coast. Fully aware of the discoveries made by Flinders and indeed Grant in Bass Strait in 1800, the French instead used their own patriotic names on the map to replace those given by Flinders and Grant. Many of the place names are given by Baudin. (source : Simon Dewez, the Printed World)

Below some maps by Freycinet and plates from "Voyage de découvertes aux terres australes" currently for sale.



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Author: Paulus Swaen ©2017