This first edition, wide margin engraving is from Jean Francois de Galaup La Perouse’s Atlas du Voyage de La Perouse It was printed in London by G.G. & J. Robinson between 1798 and 1799.
A fine copy of this engraving from Robinson’s edition “usually considered to be the best one in English … [and is] extremely rare” (Hill), picturing and charting La Perouse’s ill-fated voyage round the world.
“La Pérouse’s expedition was one of the most important scientific explorations ever undertaken to the Pacific and the west coast of North America … The charge to the expedition [which took place between 1785 and 1788] was to examine such parts of the region as had not been explored by Captain Cook; to seek for an interoceanic passage; to make scientific observations on the various countries, peoples, and products; to obtain reliable information about the fur trade and the extent of Spanish settlements in California; and to promote the inducements for French enterprise in that quarter … La Pérouse and his men did important geographical research … The voyage also included the first foreign scientific group ever to visit Alta California [two of the plates depict a beeeater and a male and female partridge of California. There are also maps and plans of San Francisco, Monterery, and San Diego] … La Pérouse sent dispatches back to France from Kamchatka and Botany Bay. The two ships then set sail from Botany Bay, in 1788, and were never heard from again.” (Hill)
When it became clear that something had happened to the expedition, a decision was made to publish the journals he had transmitted home. It was not until the 1820s that the wrecks of his ships were discovered on a reef in the Santa Cruz group. La Perouse’s voyage is notable for its superb mapping of the Alaskan and California coasts, including maps of San Diego, Monterey, and the whole Northwest Coast. The atlas also contained numerous interesting views on the coast, and in California and the Pacific, as well as botanical and natural history plates.