State Library Victoria > La Trobe Journal

No 36 December 1985


A Note on de Sainson's Views in Westernport Bay

The first printed views of Victoria are two lithographs after drawings by Louis Auguste de Sain-son, published in the Atlas historique (Paris, J. Tastu, 1833) which illustrated the official account of the voyage of the Astrolabe under the command of Dumont d'Urville. However, as was first recognized only in 19781, there exist two editions of this Atlas, produced by different printers, and sometimes involving significant changes to the original stones.
Within six weeks of the Astrolabe's return to France on 1 April 1829, Dumont d'Urville presented a lengthy report on the voyage to the Royal Academy of Sciences.2 A contract for the publication of the voyage was signed with Tastu on 8 August3, and on 10 August an independent assessment of the expedition and its achievements was read to the Academy of Sciences.4 Tastu's prospectus advertising the forthcoming publication was issued in 1830.
De Sainson and his works found their place in this flurry of activity. In May d'Urville spoke of him thus:
The expedition's artist, M. Sainson, has displayed highly praiseworthy activity and skill, in recording the landscapes, scenes and objects most likely to arouse curiosity or to be of some interest to the sciences. His portfolio contains no fewer than 182 views, landscapes, scenes and pictures; 153 portraits, 112 plates of dwellings, monuments, costumes, arms and utensils, and 45 coastal profiles, sketches of trees, etc., etc. One can judge from that the breadth of choice which will arise when a selection is made for the publication of the voyage, and I believe I can already affirm that the only embarrassments will concern those it will be impossible to engrave.5
On 11 June de Sainson was seconded to the editorial team.6 The August report failed to mention him by name, and grouped his 492 works with those of Barthélemy Lauvergne and Edmond Pâris:
The sum total of drawings … concerned only with the historical and nautical aspects of the voyage, will reach 1266. It will doubtless be impossible to publish them in their entirety; but M. Durville, by making a judicious and tasteful choice, will exclude from that number the drawings which are of lesser interest. One can rely on the discernment which will guide him, to be convinced that scholars and dilletantes will regret the absence of nothing essential.7
De Sainson's drawings earned warm praise from “M. Bidault, our celebrated landscape painter, member of the Academy of Fine Arts”to whom they were submitted for assessment by the Academy of Sciences. They were also greatly admired by Rear-Admiral Rossel, who had visited several of the same places as d'Urville's expedition when he sailed under d'Entrecasteaux in the 1790s. Tastu intended to include in the historical atlas at least 240 plates after these works.8
Earlier scientific publications of this kind had been illustrated by intaglio techniques; now, for the first time, lithography was to be used. This medium had in fact been known in France for almost thirty years, and after hestitant beginnings had established itself in the commercial and publishing worlds as a reproductive technique and among artists as a powerful vehicle of creativity and imagination. In 1829 it was about to acquire a new, official, respectability:
De Sainson's handsome drawings were before M. le Baron Hyde de Neuville, naval minister at the time, when, by Royal Ordonnance, His Excellency authorized the publisher of the Voyage of the Astrolabe to reproduce them by the lithographic process: in this way the Government gave to this art a measure of encouragement which it had not been able to achieve up until then.9
The first stones were completed in 1829.10
The printing of the lithographs in the first edition of the Atlas historiquew as shared between P. Langlumé Joseph Lemercier and Bichebois aîné. No documents have been found to shed light on the details of this arrangement, although some dissatisfaction was voiced with one aspect of the quality of the work done. In the unsigned draft (or rough copy) of a letter to d'Urville dated 15 October 1831, we read:
I have been struck by the poor execution of the majority of the lithographic drawings which make up the Atlas of the historical part of the Voyage of the Astrolabe. These plates which, according to the agreement signed by M. Tastu, should have been carried out by the best artists, are sloppy and full of errors, which stress the mediocrity of the skills of the artists called upon.
d'Urville agreed:

“Vue prise au port Western …”, from the first edition of the Atlas historique accompanying Voyage de la corvette l'Astrolabe, 1833. (La Trobe Collection.)

“Vue prise au port Wertern …”, from the second edition of the Atlas historique accompanying Voyage de la corvette l'Astrolabe …, c.1839. (Reproduced by courtesy of the Hocken Library, University of Otago.)

I am in full agreement with your opinion concerning the weakness of several of these plates, there are even some which should have been rejected.
But it is to be noted that the sweeping “majority of the lithographic drawings”has been tempered and reduced to “several of these plates”. The unidentified correspondent considers that Tastu's failure to call on “the best artists”is virtually a breach of contract, and discreetly accuses the expedition's commander of failing to exercise his own overall supervisory role. The charge is rejected:
… I must state sincerely that hitherto I had not considered myself to hold any real authority over the carrying out of the project. The agreement was drawn up between M. Tastu and the Naval Ministry, without my being called in; and subsequently I was not informed of the details of the contract. Such silence concerning me should naturally lead me to suppose that no more involvement was expected of me than that of principal author and Director of the work on a strictly scientific level.
Where de Sainson stood in this debate, we have been unable to discover.11
P. Langlumé's career has been traced only from 1822, when he is described as both printer and lithographer, although some earlier activity may be reflected in the added qualification “of the royal navy”. No confirmation or elucidation of this has been located in French naval records. In 1823 he received a “Mention honorable”at the Salon, and was awarded a bronze medal in 1827. He was established in Paris at 4, rue de l’ Abbaye-Saint-Germain by 1824, and in 1830 had additional premises at 3, rue des Beaux-Arts, both on the Left Bank in what is today the 6th Arrondissement. In 1823 he advertised artists’ supplies and Bavarian lithographic stones, and in 1827 was offering everything associated with lithography, from stones, to the ink, crayons and presses which he manufactured himself. From 1828 to 1830 his firm is recorded as P. Langlumé & Co.12
One source suggests that his career continued to about 1840, but this is implicitly contradicted by the absence of his name in the annual trades directory, the Almanack du Commerce, after 1830, and in the professional publication Le Lithographe which first appeared in 1838. Thus it appears that the lithographs in the Atlas historique which bear the words “Lith. de Langlumé”were printed in 1829 or 1830. The Habitation de pêcheurs de phoques au port Western (Nouvelle Hollande) is one of this group.
Joseph Lemercier (born Paris 1803—died 1884), considered by some of his contemporaries to be “the soul of lithography”, began his career under Langlumé, whose best worker he was in 1825. His first listing in the Almanack du Commerce for 1829 implies that he probably set up his printery in 1828. His address was 55, rue du Four-Saint-Germain, later renamed the rue de Seine-Saint-Germain, in the same corner of Paris as Langlumé. In 1833 he was catering for all kinds of “drawing on stone”, stocked “Munich stones”, manufactured ink and crayons, and offered a mail-order service within France and abroad. He was awarded silver medals for his materials in 1831 and 1832, and later received two gold medals, apparently in 1835. In 1837, in conjunction with the printer Benard (sometimes spelled Bénard) he formed the company Lemercier, Benard & Co., which is listed in the Almanack du Commerce for the first time in 1838. Lemercier was one of the founding subscribers to Le Lithographe. In 1839 he received the first of many medals at industrial exhibitions. “Chevalier de la Legion d'Honneur”in 1847, he was promoted to the rank of “Officier”in 1878. He was associated with many artists, and explored different techniques for colour lithographic printing. About 1870, his premises in the rue de Seine contained close on 50,000 lithographic stones.
Those plates in the Atlas which bear the inscription “Lith. de Lemercier”, and which include the Vue prise au port Western dans la crique des Man-gliers, were printed between 1829 and 1833, the volume's date of publication.
A. Bès (or Bes: the spelling varies), printer of the lithographs in the second edition, is a more obscure figure than Langlumé and Lemercier. He was licensed as a lithographic printer in 1838 or 1839, a detail recorded by Le Lithographe when it updated its list of Parisian lithographers in 1839. The firm of Bes & Dubreuil aîné, Lithographic Printers, operating at 25, rue Plâtre-Saint-Jacques (in the present-day 5th Arrondissement) appears as a late listing in the 1840 Almanach du Commerce, which suggests that it was probably established in 1839. The Almanach for 1843 records a change of address to 11 rue Gît-le-Coeur (present-day 6th Arrondissement). The firm was still in operation in 1850.
Various modifications, most of them slight, were made to the original stones before Bès began the printing of the second edition of the Atlas, in 1839 at the earliest. In all cases his name replaces those of the original printers. In some instances the name of Tastu, the original publisher, is erased from the
stone, but this modification was not pursued single-mindedly and many plates in the second edition still bear his name. In any case, it seems possible that Tastu remained associated with the venture, since the original 1833 title page is reused, and since his name is maintained on the two stones which have been identified as completely redrawn. Nevertheless, no Bès printing is known bearing Tastu's blind stamp.
The second edition of the Habitation de pěcheurs au port Western differs from the first only in the replacement of Langlumé's name by that of Bès. The Vue prise au port Western … has however been completely redrawn. It is larger (image excluding borders and inscriptions, 219mm x 333mm: stone ca 280mm x ca 395mm) and although not reversed, as is the case with one of the New Zealand subjects in the Atlas, differs in many details from its predecessor. The gaunt tree in the right foreground of the first edition has grown new branches and is now in full leaf: a dead branch on the ground in the same part of the image has changed shape. Many changes have been introduced into the line of eight men in the immediate foreground, with their feet together or apart, and knees and arms bent or straight. The most striking change, however, is in the title itself, no longer in two lines thus:
VUE PRISE AU PORT WESTERN / dans la crique des Mangliers
but in one line with, as an unexpected bonus, the intrusion of a glaring spelling mistake:
Although not strictly an Australian print, the frontispiece portrait of d'Urville deserves mention. The caption remains the same in each edition:
J. S. C. DUMONT D'URVILLE. / Commandant l'Expédition de l'Astrolabe, / en 1826, 1827, 1828, 1829, / Né à Condé sur Noireau, (Calvados.) / le 23 Mai 1790.
Beneath this, the words “J. Tastu, Editeur du Voyage de l'Astrolabe” appear in the first edition but not the second; at the lower left of the bust, the words “Lith. de Lemercier” are replaced by “Lith. A. Bès”; the lithographer's signature which appears at the lower right corner of the portrait — “A. Maurin / 1833” — has the date removed in the second edition.


E. M. and D. G. Ellis, Early Prints of New Zealand, Christchurch, Avon Fine Prints, 1978, p 50.


Rapport à l'Académie Royale des Sciences de l'Institut … lu dans sa sénce du 12 mai 1829, Par M. Dumont-d'Urville, … Extrait des Annales maritimes et coloniales … Paris, de l'Imprimerie Royale, Juin 1829.


Archives Nationales, Paris, Marine EE1 143, pièce 68bis.


“Voyage de l'Astrolabe. Rapport fait à l'Académie des Sciences de Paris, dans la séance du 10 aoÛt, sur le voyage de l'Astrolabe,” Journal des voyages, Tome Quarante-troisième, Paris, 1829, pp 244–9.


Rapport …, p 47.


Personal file, French Naval Archives, Château de Vincennes, Vincennes, France.


Journal des voyages, t 43, 1829, pp 245–6.


Voyage de découvertes de l'Astrolabe … Prospectus, Paris, J. Tastu, Éditeur-Imprimeur, N. 36, rue de Vaugirard, Janvier 1830, p 45.


ibid, p 46.


Plates 1, 2 and 15 are dated 1829.


These letters are contained in Archives Nationales, Paris, Marine BB4 1002.


Information on the three lithographic printers with whom this paper is concerned has been compiled from:
Almanach du Commerce, de Paris, des Départemens de la France, et des Principales Villes du Monde, for the years 1819–1850 inclusive.
Le Lithographe, Journal des Artistes et des Imprimeurs, volumes 1–3, 1838, 1839, 1842.
— Jacques Lethève, Françoise Gardey & Jean Adhémar, Inventaire du fonds français après 1800, t 12 (1963) & t 13 (1965).
— Henri Beraldi, Les Graveurs du XIXe siècle, Paris, Librarie L. Conquet, t IX, 1889.