Jules Sébastien César Dumont d’Urville 1790 - 1842

An outstanding student, d’Urville rejected academia at the age of 17 and joined the French Navy, although he preferred the navy of discovery rather than the fighting.

Dumont d’Urville’s interests included archaeology, entomology and particularly botany; his habit of botanising onshore led to his discovery of the Venus de Milo in a cowshed on the island of Melos.

Motivated by a desire to emulate James Cook, he participated in three journeys to the Pacific region: 1822-25, 1826-29 and 1837-40. The second and third were under his command and were at the zenith of French maritime exploration, colonial ambition and scientific endeavours.

On his final voyage, in command of the Astrolabe and the Zélée, his ships became floating laboratories on which mapping, collecting, documenting and painting were carried out by naturalists, hydrographers, draftsmen and surgeons. The resultant Voyage au Pôle Sud et dans l'Océanie, published in Paris 1851-1854, comprised 10 volumes of history, 13 volumes of scientific material and 10 magnificent atlases and has been described as a “museum in a book”. Our original hand-coloured engraved plates are from that publication.

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