Essai sur la Construction Navale des Peuples Extra-Europeens (Essay on Non-European Naval Architecture)

Admiral François-Edmond Pâris1841 – 1843

Australian National Maritime Museum

Australian National Maritime Museum

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 84, a lithograph 'Caboteurs malais au plus pres du vent'.

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  • Title: Essai sur la Construction Navale des Peuples Extra-Europeens (Essay on Non-European Naval Architecture)
  • Creator: Admiral François-Edmond Pâris
  • Date: 1841 – 1843
  • Location: Paris
  • Type: Lithograph
  • Significance: François-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.
  • See institution's online collections: http://www.anmm.gov.au/collections
  • Medium: Ink on paper
  • Dimensions: 360 x 550 mm
  • Credit line: ANMM Collection