CHORIS, Louis (1795-1828). Voyage pittoresque autour du monde, avec des portraits de sauvages d'Amérique, d'Asie, d'Afrique, et des iles du Grand Ocean; des paysages, des vues maritimes, et plusieurs objets d'histoire naturelle. Paris: Imprimerie de Firmin Didot, 1822-[1823?].
"One of the very valuable and fundamental works on Alaska, California, and the Hawaiian islands” (Lada-Mocarski).
A very rare and splendid fully colored copy of the first edition, the plates drawn by the expedition artist on Kotzebue’s world voyage of 1815-1818. Essentially, this is an illustrated album recording only the most memorable facts of the voyage but with full explanations of the plates—more of which relate to California, Hawaii, Kamchatka and Alaska than any other work of the period—and the Philippines, Chile and Easter Island. It is arranged in 8 sections which were first sold in 22 livraisons, 1820-1822 (although both Brunet and Howes state that publication ended in 1823). Two title-pages were printed, dated 1820 to accompany the first livraison, and 1822 for the successive parts. There was only one issue of the text and plates, according to Forbes, and although a lithographic portrait of the artist is found in a few copies, its presence does not constitute an issue point. Indeed, it may have been produced only after the work was completed.
The text was written and edited by J.B. Eyries and the list of subscribers (present in this copy) accounts for 188 copies. Choris supervised the execution of the plates himself and reworked several to his liking. Four variant plates are noted by Forbes as the most important and this copy has the last and presumably preferred variants of all of them: the dance at the mission in San Francisco lithographed by Langlumé; King Kamehameha less wrinkled; Queen Kaahmanu with spelling of her name corrected (to “Cahoumanou”); and the dance of the Hawaiian women with the additional background and a possible self-portrait of Choris in the foreground. This latter plate is the “much more beautiful” of the two issues in the opinion of Lada-Mocarski. The manuscript text of the voyage was never published but his album is highly prized for its beauty and its historical record. Forbes writes that it contains "a final and very beautiful pictorial examination of the Hawaiian Islands and of Hawaiian culture as it existed prior to the death of Kamehameha I in 1819, and prior to the abolition of the 'kapu' or feudal system following the king's death" and considers it “the great colorplate book of the Northern Pacific” (emphasis ours). Any copies are rare on the market; this one is in particularly attractive condition. Brunet I:1851 (calling for 110 plates); Forbes 541; Hill 290; Howes C-397; Lada-Mocarski 84; Peters California on Stone pp. 97-98; Sabin 12884; Streeter sale 2461; Tourville 925; Wickersham 6676.
Folio (392 x 260mm). 105 lithographed plates comprising a frontispiece portrait of Romanzoff and 104 handcolored plates from drawings by the author; folding map and 2 further maps on one leaf (marginal erasure on dedication, marginal ink stamp to one text leaf, small hole to leaf 5.2 [Radak] with loss of a few letters, some minor fingersoiling, “Fruit du baquois” plate with a long repaired tear, plates with some mild toning and some with mild spotting, about 6 plates towards end with some pale dampstain). Contemporary diced calf with gilt border (rebacked to style, corners worn, some light rubbing), clamshell box. Provenance: Helen R. Kahn, Inc., and Aquila Books.