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Francois Peron and Charles-Alexandre Lesueur, "Observations sur le Tablier des femmes Hottentotes"

  • Péron , François Auguste (1775-1810), French naturalist and explorer
Date
1805
Reference
MS.8839
  • Archives and manuscripts
  • Online

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About this work

Description

A small notebook containing Louis de Freycinet's transcription of two long articles by François Péron, together with three plates. Apparently Freycinet had intended to include this material in the account of the scientific results of the Baudin expedition (1800-3) whose primary goal was to map the Australian coastline but also included several extensive studies of Australian Aborigines,especially those in Tasmania. While at the Cape of Good Hope on the return journey, Péron and Lesueur undertook an investigation of the genitals of the “Bushmen” (Khoisan) women. The labia minora of some Khoisan women were known to extend for several inches ("Hottentot Aprone"), and were of considerable interest to European scientists: a few years later Sarah (Saartjie) Baartman, the “Hottentot Venus” was exhibited in London and Paris.

In the published volumes on the Baudin expedition, written up by Péron and Freycinet since Baudin himself died in 1803 on Mauritius during the return journey, Voyage de découvertes aux terres australes, exécuté par ordre de Sa Majesté l'empereur et roi, sur les corvettes le Géographe, le Naturaliste, et la goëlette le Casuarina, pendant les années 1800, 1801, 1802, 1803 et 1804 .... [Historique.] publié par decret impérial, sous le ministère de M. de Champagny et Rédigé ... par M. F. Péron [et continué par M. Louis Freycinet] , there is a brief mention of these observations on the "Tablier Hottentote" (vol II, pp. 304-306) but a footnote indicates it was anticipated that they would be written up more extensively in a volume by Péron on the habits, customs, etc, of the peoples encountered during this voyage. However, Péron died shortly afterwards at the relatively early age of 35 from TB without having produced this work.

The main article in the notebook is entitled "Expédition de Découvertes aux Terres Australes. Observations sur le Tablier des femmes Hottentotes… Par MM. F. Péron et C.A. Lesueur, Naturalistes de l'expédition de Découvertes. Lu à la séance particulière de la Classe des Sciences Phisiques et Mathématiques de l'Institut le 1er. Pluviose an 13 (21 Janvier 1805)." It begins with Péron's discussion of Reinier de Klerk Dibbetz, a Dutch doctor, revolutionary and poet, resident at the Cape and a pioneer of Jenner's smallpox vaccine. His small hospital was visited by all of the savants of the Baudin expedition. The article was not published during Péron or Lesueur's lifetime, only a brief note in note in Revue philosophique, littéraire et politique (an XIII, that is 1805). In 1883 a transcription by Blanchard appeared in the Bulletin de la Société zoologique de France (vol. 8, pp. 15-33).

The second part of the manuscript is Freycinet's transcription of the "Réponse de Mr. Péron aux observations critiques de Mr. Dumont sur le tablier des femmes Hotentotes" in response to Dumont's article in the Magasin encyclopédique for an 13: this appeared in the Journal de physique, de chimie et d'histoire naturelle (vol. lxi, 1805, pp. 210-17).

The three plates, although prepared for publication, were never in fact published. They consist of

Plate LXXX "Afrique Australe. Tablier des femmes Houswânaas ou Boschimans. (Femme Adulte.) La Femme est supposée debout, le Tablier de Grandeur naturelle libre et pendant entre les Cuisses."

Plate LXXXI "Afrique Australe. Tablier des femmes Houszwânaas ou Boschimans. (Femme Adulte.) Dans cette Figure da Femme est couchée sur le Dos, les Cuisses écartées ainsi que les deux lobes inférieurs du Tablier. (Grandr. Natulle.)"

Plate LXXXII "Afrique Australe. Tablier des femmes Houszwânaas ou Boschimans. (Grandeurs Naturelle.) Fig. 1. Femme Adulte couchée sur le Dos; le Tablier est renversé et épanoui sur le Mont de Venus. Fig. 2. Jeune fille assise, le Tablier de grandeur naturelle et pendant librement entre les Cuisses."

Publication/Creation

1805

Physical description

1 file Notebook, 23.5 by 19cm., with detailed 29pp. manuscript, neat and legible but with many corrections in the hand of Louis de Freycinet; in blue paper wrappers, front manuscript label "Tablier des femmes Bochisman"; together with of 3 hand-coloured engraved plates, untrimmed and with some browning

Acquisition note

Purchased from Maggs Brothers Ltd, September 2013

Related material

In Wellcome: Several copies of Voyage de découvertes aux terres australes, exécuté par ordre de Sa Majesté l'empereur et roi, sur les corvettes le Géographe, le Naturaliste, et la goëlette le Casuarina, pendant les années 1800, 1801, 1802, 1803 et 1804 .... [Historique.] publié par decret impérial, sous le ministère de M. de Champagny et Rédigé ... par M. F. Péron [et continué par M. Louis Freycinet].

MS.4679 also deals with observations of "Hottentots" from a similar period, RAMC/1139/LP/63/1-19 contains material on Saartjie Baartman, and there are some autograph letters of C-A Lesueur in MS.7152. There is also relevant material in the ephemera "Freaks" and visual material collections.

Location of duplicates

A digitised copy is held by the Wellcome Library as part of the Cover to Cover digitisation project.

Languages

  • French


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