Account of a shipwreck of Pierre Viaud / Virtual Rare Book Fair

Description: Horrifying account of a shipwreck, bound with a first edition of the travels of Piere Poivre

VIAUD, Pierre (& Jean Garpard DUBOIS-FONTANELLE).
Naufrage et aventures de M. Pierre Viaud; Natif de Rochefort, Capitaine de navire.

Bordeaux & Paris, Labottiere & Lejay, 1780. 8vo. Contemporary tree calf with richly gilt decorated spine and title lettered in gilt and marbled edges. XXIV, 307, (4); (5)-104, (2) pp.

(POIVRE, Pierre). Voyage d'un philosophe, ou observations sur les moers & les arts des peuples de l'Afrique, de l'Asie et de l'Amerique.
Yverdon, 1768. 142 pp.

Ad I: Born in 1725, Viaud was a sailor by sixteen and a captain in the French merchant marine by 1761. The book places Viaud at St. Domingue in late 1766. Before returning to France he made a business deal for a voyage from Caye de St. Louis to Louisiana with the brigantine Le Tigre. The sixteen passengers also included Viaud's black slave, Captain La Couture and his wife and fifteen- year-old son, the mate, and nine sailors. The ship encountered bad weather, however, and on February 16, 1767, wrecked off Dog Island (directly opposite the present day fishing town of Carrabelle). Amid much difficulty they got ashore. Although some men died of sickness, the survivors managed to salvage some supplies from the ship, but oysters and roots were their main food supply, and they were constantly hungry. The survivors patched a leaky pirogue, and some men departed in it, never to be seen again. Sub-plots relate how the rest of the crew scattered. Viaud, his slave, Madame La Couture, and her son constructed a raft. The sick boy was left behind but the others made it to the mainland. From there they undertook a tortured trip toward St. Marks. Along the way, according to Viaud, they used fire to fend off wild animals, including bears, lions, and tigers. They became so weak from hunger that Viand, with physical aid from Madame La Couture, killed his slave with a knife, and the deceased chattel became their main item of food. Readers, contemporary and modern, have recoiled from the cannibalism in the story which scandalized Europe when it was first published in 1768. Despite their human diet, supplemented with leaves, shellfish, rattlesnakes, and an alligator, which Viaud claimed to have killed with a stick, the unlucky pair wound up exhausted and dying. A kinder fate came in the presence of an English rescue party commanded by Ensign James Wright who found them. They also discovered the boy still alive, and the party was taken to St. Marks. There they were befriended by George Swettenham, the fort's commander. Later, Madame La Couture and her son returned to Louisiana. Viaud sailed to New York via a stopover in St. Augustine and eventually home to France.
Originally the account was published in 1768 with the title: Effets des passions, ou Mémoires de M. de Floricourt (London & Paris 1768), and reprinted in 1770 with the title: Naufrage et avantures de M. Pierre Viaud, natif de Bordeaux (edd. in Bordeaux (Sabin 99412) (this edition) and Neuchatel, both in 1770), followed by many other editions till far into the nineteenth century. In 1771 the account was translated in Dutch and English by Mrs. Griffith.

Ad 2: First edition, which was published without the knowledge of the author. The experiences of Pierre Poivre (1719-1786) of his travels to the Cape of Good Hope, Madagascar, Siam, Cambodia, China and other countries in Africa and to America, a comprehensive discourse on Isle de France and the Isle de Bourbon, Coromandel, and comparative essays in the field of agriculture. The Voyages were also published in English in 1769, and a German translation appeared in 1783.
Pierre Povre was a French horticulturist and uncle of the famous naturalist Pierre Sonnerat. As a young man he served as a missionary in China, later he became administrator of Ile de France (Mauritius) and Ile Bourbon (Réunion) in the Indian Ocean. At Mauritius he constructed a famous botanical garden.

A very desirable copy.
Ad 1: Sabin 99412; Polak 9438; Brunet V p. 1177; Huntress 80C; Ad 2: Sabin 63716; Kress B.222; JFBL P328; INED 3616; Higgs 4261; Goldsmiths 10399; Cordier, Bibliotheca Indosinica, p. 2495.
  • Number: 1060494
  • Dealer: Antiquariaat FORUM

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