Paul Gibbard (ed. and trans.), The French Collector: Journal and Letters of Théodore Leschenault, botanist of the Baudin expedition, Nedlands, UWA Publishing, 2023.
The French botanist Théodore Leschenault (1773–1826) travelled with Nicolas Baudin’s voyage of discovery to Australia in the years 1800 to 1803: his journal and letters vividly record his impressions of the plant life and animals he encountered, along with dramatic and unsettling meetings with Indigenous peoples. Shaped as much by Enlightenment ideas as by his painful experience of the French Revolution, Leschenault weaves through his travelogue reflections on topics ranging from slavery and colonialism to plant systematics and environmental damage.
Long thought lost, Leschenault’s original manuscript journal was rediscovered only in 2016. The French Collector offers the first complete English translation of this journal (including two previously unknown chapters recounting his experiences in Le Havre, Tenerife and Mauritius) and various letters relating to the expedition. This edition also provides extensive explanatory notes and an introduction which details Leschenault’s early life in Burgundy and imprisonment during the Revolution and sets his activities against the backdrop of French science and exploration in the period.
This book can be obtained through the publisher(s website at https://uwap.uwa.edu.au/products/the-french-collector-journal-and-letters-of-theodore-leschenault
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Jean Fornasiero & John West-Sooby (eds), ‘Roaming Freely throughout the Universe’: Nicolas Baudin’s Voyage to Australia and the Pursuit of Science, Mile End, Wakefield Press, 2021.
The Age of Exploration not only paved the way for European conquest and trade, it also widened the horizons of science. By the second half of the eighteenth century, the link between travel and science was so widely acknowledged that it had become routine practice to include naturalists in all major voyages of exploration.
The need to study natural phenomena in situ might seem self-evident. Some, however, considered that the main purpose of fieldwork was to collect specimens for the dispassionate examination of specialists back home. Truly meaningful study, they argued, required the kinds of resources that were not available to those in the field. As the renowned French naturalist Georges Cuvier put it, ‘it is only in one’s study that one can roam freely throughout the universe’.
In the context of this debate, Nicolas Baudin’s voyage of discovery to Australia (1800-1804), which included both specialist field collectors and aspiring young savants, proved pivotal. Drawing on a range of archival sources, the essays presented here offer fresh perspectives on Baudin’s scientific voyagers, their work and its legacy. What emerges is a deeper appreciation of the Baudin expedition’s contribution to the pursuit of science, and of those who pursued it.
Contributors: Gabrielle Baglione, Andrew Black, Jean-Luc Chappey, Cedric Cremiere, Jean Fornasiero, John Gascoigne, Paul Gibbard, Philippa Horton, Michel Jangoux, Justin Jansen, Stephanie Pfennigwerth, Margaret Sankey, Nicole Starbuck, John West-Sooby.
This book can be obtained through the publisher’s website at:
Exhibition: “Australie-Le Havre, l’intimité d’un lien”
In its recent exhibition (5 June-7 November 2021), the Museum of Le Havre, one of the Baudin Legacy’s closest partners, chose a number of innovative and visually attractive means to highlight the close connections between the Museum’s extensive holdings of manuscripts, artworks and artefacts, and the history of Australia, its plants, animals and indigenous culture. 220 artworks by Charles-Alexandre Lesueur and Nicolas-Martin Petit, products of the Baudin expedition to Australia (1800-1804) were displayed alongside museum objects and contemporary Australian creations. To access information on this exhibition and to view a selection of the striking works on display, go to:
The exhibition catalogue can be obtained through its publisher, MkF éditions, by going to its site at: