[LESSEPS, Jean-Baptiste Barthélemy de]
[LA PEROUSE] Voyage de M. de Lesseps du Kamtschatka en France
avec une préface par Ferdinand de Lesseps. Paris : Maurice Dreyfous, [c.1860]. Octavo, pictorial gilt red cloth boards, all edges gilt, 248 pp, illustrated with 11 engravings; occasional mild foxing, a very good copy. Scarce.
Jean-Baptiste Barthélemy de Lesseps (1766-1834) was an officer on the Astrolabe, one of the two ships in the ill-fated scientific expedition of La Pérouse. Having sailed across the Pacific, visiting Easter Island, the Sandwich Islands, Alaska, California, Manila and Macao, the expedition arrived in Kamchatka (the easternmost outpost of Russian colonisation) in September 1787, in order to replenish supplies. De Lesseps was selected by La Pérouse to return overland from there to Europe, carrying with him all the highly-sensitive reports and charts of the expedition up to this point, which La Pérouse was determined should reach French authorities as soon as possible. La Pérouse’s ships then headed south towards New Holland, and their encounter with Arthur Phillip’s First Fleet outside Botany Bay in January 1788 would be their last meeting with fellow Europeans. De Lessep’s intrepid and epic journey to St Petersburg took more than twelve months. In St Petersburg he was able to safely hand over the expedition’s documents to the French ambassador. On his return to Paris, he was feted as a national hero and was appointed consul in Kronstadt (St Petersburg), thus commencing a distinguished diplomatic career.
De Lessep’s own account of his journey was first published in 1790 (Journal historique du voyage de M. de Lesseps, consul de France, employé dans l’expédition de M. le comte de la Pérouse en qualité d’interprète du roi…), and was also translated into English the same year (Travels in Kamchatka during the years 1787 and 1788). The narrative includes much important ethnological information about the indigenous peoples of the Russian Arctic (illustrated by engravings which were made under the direction of de Lesseps himself), as well as a lexicon of four Siberian languages, of great significance in the field of comparative linguistics. The preface to this little-known later edition was written by de Lessep’s nephew, Ferdinand de Lesseps, who was the chief developer of the Suez Canal.
Unrecorded in Australian collections.