Louis-Isidore Duperrey (1786-1865)


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Louis-Isidore Duperrey (1786-1865)
Views from: Voyage autour du Monde… Historie du Voyage
Paris: 1822-25
Hand-colored engravings
12 ¾" x 9 ½"; 22" x 18 ½" framed

The only other Europeans besides the English to play a significant part in mapping the Pacific including New Zealand's coastline and were the French. From 1800 to 1840, there were ten major French voyages to Australia and the Pacific. The main purpose of these was scientific, however there was also an unspoken goal of discovering where France might carve out an empire of her own in the South Pacific.

In addition to the vast collections of specimens and scientific data that were brought back, these voyages were distinguished by the publication of the most sumptuous collections of engravings noting not only the native plants and animals, but also the geography of the land and nature of its inhabitants. Scientists, artists and engravers-attached to the Museum National d'Histoire Naturelle in Paris were paid by the French Government and worked over many years to produce these extraordinary documentations of each voyage.

Of great note is the expedition lead by Lois-Isidore Duperrey on the vessel named Coquille which left Toulon August 11, 1822 and arrived in Marseilles on March 24, 1825. Duperrey joined the navy in 1802, and served as marine hydrologist to Louis Claude de Saulces de Freycinet aboard the Uranie (1817-1820), a previous expedition that had earned Duperrey praise and granted him the opportunity to command his own ship on what would become one of the greatest French expeditions to the Pacific.

Duperrey proceeded to the Pacific by way of Brazil and Cape Horn. Stops were made along the coats of Chile and Peru, and in the Society, Gilbert , Marshall and Caroline islands. Other islands visited included the Tuamoto, Archipelago, Tahiti, Tonga and Rotuma. The expedition also made important exploratory visits to Australia, New Guinea and New Zealand, where the Maoris were visited. The entire voyage took almost three years.

By far the greatest contributions of the expedition were scientific, cartographic, and ethnographic. 1200 Insects, 288 fishes, 264 birds, 63 reptiles and quantities of plants were collected and beautifully described and reproduced in the exquisitly colored plates of the several atlases of Voyage autour du Monde. Recordings were made on Polynesian languages, costumes, weapons and religious artifcats. Duperrey is given credit for discovering the Caroline and Gilbert islands, and for correcting errors in earlier charts of the Society Islands. Duperrey's also continued to explore the French interest in Tahiti and the Society Islands, which culminated in their annexation by France. His expedition also proved to be a catalyst for French missionary endeavors in the South Pacific to contest with Protestant Englishmen. His explorations of Australia and New Zealand were less significant politically, since the British opposed any French settlement there. Nonetheless, this largely scientific endeavor opened the door to a much more aggressive French policy in the South Pacific.