The first complete chart of the Australian continent

By PERON, Francois and FREYCINET, Louis, 1807 

Complete set of first editions of account of Captain Nicolas Baudin’s expedition Voyage de Découertes aux Terres Australes’

Travel & Voyages
  • Author: PERON, Francois and FREYCINET, Louis
  • Publication place: Paris
  • Publication date: 1807-12.
  • Physical description: First editions, five volumes, comprising the three volume Partie Historique”: two volumes text, together with the two part atlas bound in one volume, 4to (345 by 255mm); and the two volume Partie Navigation et Géographie’: one volume text 4to (345 by 255mm), and one folio atlas (555 by 445mm); contemporary red straight-grained morocco over red cartonage boards with a gilt fillet and roll-tool border, flat spines in seven compartments separated by gilt bands, split at lower joint to vol. I, atlas volume expertly bound to style, a few scuffs and scrapes.
  • Inventory reference: 1046


A complete set of this important French scientific voyage, together with the navigation text volume and the folio atlas, which was issued separately.

The expedition was sent by Napoleon Bonaparte in 1800 to complete the discovery of Terra Australis with two ships, Le Geographie and Le Naturaliste, under the command of experienced captain Nicolas Thomas Baudin (1754–1803). The original purpose of the voyage was to examine the Australian south coast in order to find a strait which supposedly divided the Australian island in two halves. The French zoologist François Auguste Péron (1775–1810), who had studied under the anatomist George Cuvier in Paris, was the naturalist of the expedition, and Louis Claude de Saulses de Freycinet (1779–1820) served as cartographer.

Flinders and Baudin’s circumnavigation of the Australian Continent was happening at the same time, and they met each other in the consequently named Encounter Bay”. Although Flinders completed the task before Baudin, he was captured and imprisoned for six years at Mauritius on his voyage home, along with his charts and manuscripts. This allowed the French explorers to print their account of the new discoveries before Flinders, and to produce the first complete chart of the Australian continent in 1807.

The maps and charts prepared by Freycinet entirely ignored the discoveries of Grant and Flinders and depict the whole of the newly discovered coast of Melbourne to the border of Western Australia as the Terre Napoleon’.

When Baudin died during the voyage in 1803, Freycinet took over command and brought the expedition back to France. On the return of the expedition, Péron was charged with producing the narrative for publication. However, he died in 1810 before the second volume had been finished, with the result that the work had to be completed by Freycinet. Baudin had failed as a leader during the expedition: 46 sailors and ten scientists deserted due to quarrels, illness, and poor conditions, and the primary goal of the expedition (to explore the south coast) was not accomplished.

Despite the lack of respect for their leader, Baudin (neither Péron nor Freycinet mention his name), the work became an outstanding example of a description of an exploratory expedition, including extensive descriptions of Timor and Sydney, where the expedition stayed over six months. The atlas volume contains two fine views of Sydney, one double-page, and a double-page view of Timor. In addition to these views, and the large map of Australia by Freycinet (1808), the atlas is noteworthy for its 23 full-page plates of native people of Africa, Timor, and Australia (15 of which are hand-coloured), and 35 plates of weapons, houses, utensils, and animals.

The journals of this expedition are among the finest items of Australiana ever published” (Davidson).

Partie Historique’: Peron, François, Voyage de Découertes aux Terres Australes exécuté par ordre de sa Majesté l’Empereur et Roi, sur les Corvettes le Géographe, le Naturaliste, et la goelette le Casuarina, pendent les annees 1800, 1801, 1802, 1803 et 1804; publie par décret impérial. [with] Voyage de Decouertes aux Terres Australes … Atlas par MM. Lesueur et Petit. Dirige par J, Milbert. A Paris, de l’imprimerie Impériale, 1807. First edition, text: two volumes, [6, half title, title, errata], xv[i], 496pp.; [1, half title], xxxi[i] (including engraved portrait of Peron by Lambert after a drawing by Lesueur taken 15 days prior to Peron’s death), 471pp.; atlas: two parts in one volume, part one comprising engraved title, 4pp. Tableau Général’, and 40 plates (23 hand-coloured, some folding); part two comprising engraved title, 3pp. Table des cartes et plans’, blank, and 14 maps and charts (several folding).


Partie Navigation et Géographie’ Freycinet, Louis de, Voyage de Decouertes aux Terres Australes … Navigation et Geographe, A Paris, de l’imprimerie Royale, 1815. First edition, text: one volume, vxi, 576, [2, errata et additions’]; atlas: engraved title page, table, and 32 engraved charts, Paris 1812. 


  1. Ferguson 449 and 536
    • Ferguson, J. (1941). Bibliography of Australia. Sydney: Angus and Robertson.
  2. Howgego, Encyplopedia 1800 to 1850, B18, F32, and P21
    • Howgego, J. (1978). Printed maps of London, circa 1553–1850. Folkestone: Dawson.

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