In 1841 the French Navy captain François-Edmond Pâris compiled for publication his notes, sketches and naval architectural drawings of non-European watercraft, based on observations during three circumnavigations of the globe on the ASTROLABE (1826-1829), LA FAVORITE (1829-1833) and ARTEMISE (1837-1841).
The entire folio consists of two volumes in thirteen parts, divided by geographical region. 156 pages of text describe the construction and use of watercraft in various non-European countries and European colonies. The text is accompanied by 132 plates of lithographs of the watercraft in use and engravings of their naval architecture.
This is plate 128, an engraving 'Pirogues de l'ile Romanzoff', 'Bateaux a rames de l'ile de Paques', 'Bateau en peau de l'ile St. Laurent', 'Baydarques d'Oonalashka', 'Baydarque de Bodega', 'Balse ou Jangada de Guayaquil', 'Canot du Kamtchatka' and 'Baydarque de Bodeja, a une place'.
SignificanceFrançois-Edmond Pâris's portfolio of meticulous naval plans, vibrant drawings and accompanying text on non-European vessels provides valuable historical information about both Indigenous watercraft and the people who made and worked them during the early nineteenth century.
The Essai was a limited edition and few copies survive.
Pâris's work has important connections with Australian and Pacific history. He visited Sydney and Hobart on each of his three Pacific voyages. His first work began as a young officer aboard France's last and greatest scientific voyage of discovery - Dumont d'Urville's ASTROLABE expedition from 1826-1829, which spent considerable time surveying and documenting the southern and western Australian coastline.
Pâris's images, plans and models of non-European vessels had an important influence on the development of the French Musee National de la Marine of which he was curator from 1871 to 1893.
Some of the craft in Pâris's plans and sketches have disappeared from use, whilst others are still made today in the same traditional manner, demonstrating an important historical continuity.
The Pâris collection exemplifies the spirit of scientific enquiry and classification of indigenous artifacts into the European world view that propelled the great European voyages of the 18th and early 19th centuries. They hark back to the classificatory impulse of the Enlightenment. Yet unlike many other images and accounts of Indigenous cultures that emphasised the superiority of the European, Paris's work shows an empathy with Indigenous cultures and their inventive solutions to seafaring problems.
Pâris was the first European 'nautical ethnographer'. His maritime ethnography of indigenous water craft is unique. It ranks as one of the greatest of all works on naval architecture.
HistoryFrançois-Edmond Pâris (1806-1893), son of a French government administrator, entered the Angoulême Naval Academy at the age of 14 in 1820. Between 1822 and 1824 he studied painting with French Navy artists Pierre-Julien Gilbert (1783-1860) and Pierre Ozanne (1737-1813), both known for their accurate and lively drawings of ships and naval battles.
Pâris's long naval career began in 1826 as a young officer or élève with France's last and greatest scientific voyage of discovery, the ASTROLABE expedition under captain Dumont d'Urville. Dumont d'Urville preferred trained navy personnel to 'troublesome' civilian scientists and artists. The official artist on the ASTROLABE was Louis de Sainson, who produced the remarkable Atlas Historique from this 1826-1829 voyage.
During the circumnavigation, Dumont d'Urville spent time surveying King George Sound and later Jervis Bay on the east coast of Australia and Pâris was employed in making charts. On arriving in Port Jackson in December 1826, Dumont d'Urville discovered his surveys had aroused suspicion over French colonisation plans. He then sailed to New Zealand, several Pacific islands and Tasmania, before journeying home via Vanikoro in the Solomon Islands where he erected a monument to the great French navigator Comte de Laperouse.
The hydrographic results of the expedition were impressive, as were the vast collections of botanical and zoological specimens from all parts of the globe. The next French voyage to the South Pacific was to have quite a different focus. In 1829 Cyrille-Pierre-Théodore Laplace was given command of an expedition to secure further economic opportunities for French colonial interests in the Asia-Pacific region, and to re-establish waning French influence in Indo-China. With his prior experience on Dumont d'Urville's expedition and growing reputation as a hydrographer, Laplace chose Lieutenant Pâris among his officers on LA FAVORITE.
Laplace's expedition left the French port of Toulon in December 1829. Near Madras off the Indian east coast, LA FAVORITE grounded on a mud bank and was assisted by local Indian fishing vessels. Pâris was to note that the masula of the region - despite their construction from planks of mango wood sewn together with coconut coir - were quite suited to their task, precisely because of their very un-European flexibility.
LA FAVORITE continued to Singapore and then visited a series of South East Asian ports, including Manila, Macao and Canton, where Laplace secured 'most favoured nation' status with the Chinese for France. Whilst in Indo-China, Laplace noted that Pâris's survey chart of Tourane Bay (Vietnam) was 'as handsome a piece of work as it was useful'. After visiting several other Indo-Chinese ports Laplace continued to the Dutch East Indies, then to Australia. The crew had suffered much illness in South East Asia and two men were buried on Bruny Island, and another three died in hospital in Hobart in July 1832.
Laplace continued to Sydney in August - where the French crew was a popular addition to the colony's social calendar - before leaving in September to New Zealand. The warm welcome extended by the colonial authorities in Sydney to the crew of LA FAVORITE quickly changed when they heard the French were making extensive surveys of the New Zealand coastline in an apparent attempt to claim New Zealand for France. This French 'threat' of a corvette off the New Zealand coast, along with some prompting by colonials, led several Maori chiefs to write to King William IV for his protection, ultimately hastening the British colonisation of New Zealand.
Laplace left New Zealand and crossed the Pacific to arrive in the Chilean port of Valparaiso in November 1832. He then continued south past Cape Horn and returned across the Atlantic to Toulon harbour in April 1833. During the voyage, Pâris had compiled an extensive portfolio of drawings and plans of various watercraft from all the expedition's ports of call.
Despite some trading setbacks in China, Laplace's voyage was regarded as generally successful and the French government authorised the publication of his account, Voyage autour du Monde par les Mers de l'Inde et de la Chine, in four volumes, from 1833. Twenty four of the 72 watercolour plates of scenes of various ports and towns included in the first volume were by Françios-Edmond Pâris.
Pâris's increasing portfolio of work was recognised and he was awarded the Légion d'honneur. Pâris then approached the Naval Ministry for permission to go to England to learn English and familiarise himself with the operations of the new steamships. He was later involved in installing the first steam engines on board French naval vessels.
After captaining the CASTOR from 1834 to 1836, in 1837 Pâris was attached to the ARTEMISE as executive officer - again under Laplace - for a third voyage of exploration, and Pâris's third circumnavigation of the globe. The voyage this time was primarily political; Laplace was tasked with ensuring fair treatment for French missionaries and traders in Tahiti and Honolulu.
The ARTEMISE voyage became an arduous, disease-ridden struggle through the Indian Ocean and South East Asia. For Paris, it was quite tragic. Whilst inspecting an engine in a foundry in Porto Novo in Pondicherry in June 1838, his sleeve became caught in the machinery and his arm was 'mangled'. It was later amputated, but this did little to stop the energetic Paris from continuing his work and career, and his interest in steam engines.
The ARTEMISE visited Hobart and Sydney - the third time for the well-travelled Lieutenant Pâris - and finally returned to France in April 1841. Pâris's three expeditions had provided him with such a comprehensive body of work on non-European watercraft that he could claim to have made a definitive study. The King of France agreed and Pâris's drawings were published by royal decree. His Essai sur la Construction Navale des Peuples Extra-Européens was printed by the renowned engraver Claude Arthus-Bertrand. Between 1841 and 1843 the various parts of his folio, with individual plates and accompanying text pages wrapped in their yellow cover papers, were produced monthly.
During his Pacific voyages, Pâris had documented every type of sailing vessel he encountered. He drew plans and scenes of indigenous watercraft in such places as Senegal, the Seychelles, India, Malaysia, the Strait of Malacca, Vietnam, China, Singapore, the Philippines, Indonesia, Australia, Chile and Brazil. He drew canoes from Greenland, Arab dhows, Chinese junks, Malay proas and Pacific outriggers.
Despite the loss of an arm, Pâris continued to actively command in the French Navy. In 1842 he transferred to the new steamship section of the navy, captained the INFERNAL and the ARCHIMEDE, and was promoted to the rank of captain in 1846. He was given command of several other ships between 1847 and 1854 during a time of rapid innovation and change in naval warfare toward steam driven ironclad ships. At this time, Pâris collaborated with his father in-law Admiral Bonnefoux on a huge Maritime Dictionary of Sail and Steam, in both French and English.
During the Crimean War (1853-1856) Pâris headed the naval division of Dniepr and in 1856 took command of AUDACIEUSE. In 1857 he visited England to study the construction of Brunel's great 'Leviathan' steam ship the GREAT EASTERN. In 1858 he was promoted to Rear Admiral and from 1860 to 1861, led the 2nd division of the French fleet, with his flag on the ALGESIRAS. Made a member of the French Academy of Sciences in 1863 in recognition of his contributions to geography, he continued to write treatises on naval architecture. In 1864, Pâris was promoted to vice-admiral, and headed the naval archives.
After retiring from the Navy in 1871 he took up the position of curator of the Musee National de la Marine, a position he held until his death in 1893. Pâris had a significant influence on the direction of the French maritime museum collection, ordering the construction of 120 models of vessels indigenous to different locations of the French Empire. This no doubt gave physical form to his extensive portfolio of images and plans, as well as to French imperial connections.
Primary title: Pirogues de l' ile Romanzoff
Web title: Essai sur la Construction Navale des Peuples Extra-Europeens (Essay on Non-European Naval Architecture)
Assigned title: Canoe of Romanzoff island
Collection title: Essai sure la construction navale des peuples extra-Europeen ou collection des navires et pirogues construits par les habitants de l'Asie, de la Malaisie, du Grand Ocean et de l'Amerique