First Zoological Inventory of Polynesia – Noury’s Fregate la Sirene… – 458 Original Illustrations in 5 Volumes, 1 Hand-written Text Volume, and 1 Modern publication of the Manuscript


Product No. noury-watercolors

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Frégate la Sirene, commendée par Mr. Noury Capitaine de Frégate. Histoire naturelle. Voyage dans l'Oceanie, années 1847, 1848 & 1849. Iles de la Société, Tahiti & Marquises, Nouka hiva

This historically significant manuscript is the ‘First Zoological Inventory of Polynesia.’ The work based on the research of Charles-Gaëtan Noury is entitled Frégate la Sirene, commendée par Mr. Noury Capitaine de Frégate. Histoire naturelle. Voyage dans l’Oceanie, années 1847, 1848 & 1849. Iles de la Société, Tahiti & Marquises, Nouka hiva and was unknown until 2017. The work was completed in France after 1850.

The manuscript is in 6 volumes, one volume of text and five volumes with 458 illustrations (including 444 watercolors, 10 pen drawings, and 4 pencil drawings). Each illustration is mounted on card and often has French handwritten descriptors with local names. The five volumes with illustrations are bound in green half morocco with gold details and monogram of C.N. to the front boards. The text volume is bound in half-cloth. Also included in the lot is the manuscript published on behalf of the Belgian Academy of Sciences by Michel Jangou after the discovery of this one of a kind work of Noury’s. Jangou’s publication is entitled Voyage en Polynésie (1847-1850): Le bestiaire oublié du capitaine Noury and was published in Brüssel in 2017 (available on Amazon as well).

All of the illustrations and text were based on the scientific findings of Charles-Gaëtan Noury. It encompassed the entire animal kingdom of Polynesia creating the ‘First Zoological Inventory of Polynesia.’ Michel Jangou commented in his publication of the manuscript that “Noury produced a pioneering work, the first zoological inventory of Polynesia! He compiled it discreetly, with the invaluable help of a talented painter who remains anonymous. Since then, Noury ‘s manuscript and the watercolors which illustrate it have remained ignored by everything: it took more than a century and a half for the captain’s work, still intact, to find the light and finally be revealed to us.” (p. 39)

Noury divided the animals into individual classes. The artist depicted the animals with brilliant colors and a mastery of detail. The manuscript depicted several previously unknown species. Watercolor number 183 features a detailed autographed commentary from Noury himself. Noury’s text was mainly dedicated to his zoological findings with a smaller section on plants. The individual classes and sections are introduced by a summary table, which follows Milne Edwards zoological classification system of mammals, birds, reptiles, fish, ringed animals, insects, myriapods, arachnids, crustaceans, molluscs, and zoophytes. His descriptions were often enriched with island anecdotes.

Charles-Gaëtan Noury (1809-1869) was a French naval officer and naturalist. He boarded the Sirène in Brest, France in 1846 as the deputy to Commander Lavaud. Lavaud had been appointed governor of the French settlements in Oceania. While Lavaud served as governor, Noury had command of the Sirène and stationed in Papeete (Tahiti). He dedicated himself to scientific research there and with the help of painters produced this remarkable astonishing manuscript.

Noury had one work published in Nantes in 1861 entitled Album Polynésien de M. C. Noury, Capitaine de Vaisseau which showed images of tattoos and artifacts of South Sea curiosities. This work with 15 plates is currently on the market at 25,000 EUR.

This one of a kind manuscript from Noury offered here remained undiscovered for over 160 years. It features 458 illustrations and hand-written scientific text that make it a truly astonishing work for any collection.

Additional photos available upon request.

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