DE VIGNY’S POEM IN MEMORY OF NAPOLEON’S LOSS TO LORD NELSON, WITH 14 FINE POCHOIR ILLUSTRATIONS IN DOUBLE SUITE
VIGNY, Alfred de. La Frégate “La Sérieuse,” ou la Plainte du Capitaine. Poème. Paris: René Kieffer (Ducros, Lefèvre et Colas), (1922). Tall octavo, publisher’s deluxe full green morocco gilt, embossed cover illustration, marbled endpapers, top edge gilt, uncut. $1500.
Fine limited edition, number 18 of only 550 copies (one of only 50 on Japanese paper), of this melancholy poem on the fate of the French frigate “La Sérieuse,” which was dismasted and sunk by Nelson’s British fleet in the “Battle of the Nile,” with 14 illustrations (four full-page) by Pierre Falké, colored en pochoir. This copy includes a second suite of sepia illustrations bound at the rear.
In January 1798 the French gathered an army and substantial fleet in the Mediterranean port of Toulon. It was apparent to the British that Napoleon planned to invade somewhere on the coast of the Mediterranean, but it was not clear where. “By Nelson’s assessment, which proved correct, Napoleon intended to take Malta and then invade the Turkish Khediveate of Egypt, providing support to Tipoo Sultan in his fight with the British in India and restoring French influence in that sub-continent. The government in London and the East India Company panicked at the prospect… Nelson’s fleet set sail for Egypt… to find Alexandria filled with French transport vessels, when the signal was flown ‘Enemy in sight.’ The search for the French Fleet was over; Nelson’s ships cleared for action” (. In the ensuing “Battle of the Nile,” engaged in Aboukir Bay, Napoleon’s Fleet was completely overwhelmed. Of its 13 ships of the line and four frigates, one ship had sunk (“La Sérieuse”), two ships were burned and nine ships captured. It was arguably one of the most decisive battles in the history of naval warfare. Illustrated by maritime specialist Pierre Falké, this poem by de Vigny memorializes that resounding loss. Bookplate. Gift inscription in pencil. Kieffer’s bookseller ticket.
A fine copy, with the spine slightly toned.