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1845 Lauvergne View of Singapore Waterfront from the Harbor

Vue de Sincapour. - Main View

1845 Lauvergne View of Singapore Waterfront from the Harbor


One of the earliest obtainable views of Singapore.


Vue de Sincapour.
  1845 (undated)     8 x 12.5 in (20.32 x 31.75 cm)


One of the earliest obtainable views of Singapore, this is a rare c. 1845 chromolithograph by Barthélémy Lauvergne, one of the resident artists on the Bonite Expedition (1836 - 1837), a French scientific and diplomatic circumnavigation. It presents the British colony in its early days of development as a bustling port and meeting point of cultures.
A Closer Look
This view depicts the waterfront of the growing British colony of Singapore in 1837, when it was visited by the Bonite. It is oriented towards the northwest, illustrating the British waterfront colonial buildings at the core of the settlement. In the background at center-right is Fort Canning Hill, known then as Government Hill or Singapore Hill, with its Government House, where the British governors of the colony resided until it was demolished in 1858 to build Fort Canning.
The Bonite Expedition
The French ship La Bonite undertook a voyage of scientific and geographic exploration in 1836 - 1837. Led by Auguste-Nicolas Vaillant (1793 - 1858), the voyage circumnavigated the globe, en route disembarking diplomats at various posts. Along the way, important observations were made that contributed to several fields, but especially botany and zoology. A large account of the voyage was written upon the ship's return and divided into thematic volumes, including an album of drawings by the ship's artists, Théodore Auguste Fisquet and Barthélémy Lauvergne. The scientific expedition arrived in Singapore on February 17, 1837 and stayed through February 23; it is safe to assume that Lauvergne sketched this view during the expedition's brief stay.
The Early Days of British Singapore
Stamford Raffles founded Singapore as a British colony in 1819, looking for a site to challenge the Dutch, who had a colony at Melaka from which they threatened to dominate the Straits of Malacca. Finding a sparsely populated but strategically located island at the end of the Malay Peninsula with a natural deep harbor and ready supply of fresh water, Raffles intervened in a factional struggle in the Sultanate of Johor, which nominally controlled the island, supporting one faction in exchange for being granted the island. Raffles then made the critical decision to set Singapore up as a free port. From the beginning, Singapore witnessed rapid growth and high volume as a port, as well as the presence of a diverse set of cultures, including local Bugis and other Malays, Arab traders, ethnically Chinese (Peranakan) merchants, Indian traders and soldiers, Armenians, Parsis, Baghdadi Jews, and others.
Publication History and Census
This view was originally drawn by Barthélemy Lauvergne in 1837 and was published several years later as Plate No. 78 (of 100) in the Album Historique, a collection of maps and views prepared to accompany Auguste Nicholas Vaillant's Voyage Autour du Monde exécuté pendant les années 1836 et 1837 sur la Corvette la Bonite. Unlike many of the other views in the Album Historique based on his sketches, Lauvergne also lithographed this view. It was edited by Arthus Bertrand and printed by the firm Lemercier, Benard et Cie. This view is very scarce to the market and is only independently cataloged in the holdings of the National Library of Australia and the National Library Board of Singapore, while the entire Album historique is cataloged in a small handful of European libraries.


Barthélemy Lauvergne (July 4, 1805 - November 15, 1871) was a French painter, maritime, and landscape artist active throughout the middle years of the 19th century. Lauvergne was born in Tulon and mastered drawing under Pierre Letuaire (1798 - 1885). He was immediately drawn the exotic and began to travel son after reaching adulthood - circumnavigating the world three times. He first accompanied the French naval officer Jules Sébastien César Dumont d'Urville (1790 - 1842) onboard the L'Astrolabe (1826 - 1829), then Cyrille Pierre Théodore Laplace (1793 - 1875) on La Favorite (1830 - 1832), and finally Auguste-Nicolas Vaillant (1793 - 1858) La Bonite (1836 - 1837). He also participated as an artist on Arctic voyages to Iceland, Spitzbergen, Finland, and Norway. In February of 1841 he was appointed to the Dépôt des Cartes et Plans de la Marine, where with government sponsorship, he published hundreds of finely lithographed images from his voyages - creating unique visual record of cultural interactions between European explorers and indigenous peoples. He painted a portrait of Napoleon III in 1851. Lauvergne retired to his hometown, Toulon, in 1863, and died 8 years later in 1871. More by this mapmaker...

Rose-Joseph Lemercier (June 29, 1803 - 1887) was a French photographer, lithographer, and printer. One of the most important Parisian lithographers of the 19th century, Lemercier was born in Paris into a family of seventeen children. His father was a basket maker, and he even began working as a basket maker at the age of fifteen, but Lemercier was drawn to lithography and printing and soon entered into an apprenticeship with Langlumé, where he worked from 1822 until 1825. After working for a handful of other printers, Lemercier started his own firm in 1828 at 2, rue Pierre Sarrazin with only one printing press. He subsequently moved a few more times before arriving at 57, rue de Seine, where he founded the printing firm Lemercier and Company. He created the firm Lemercier, Bénard and Company in 1837 with Jean François Bénard. Lemercier bought out Bénard's share in the firm in 1843 and, since his two sons died at a young age, he decided to bring his nephew Alfred into the business beginning in 1862, who would progressively take on more and more responsibility in running the firm. Between 1850 and 1870, Lemercier's firm was the largest lithographic company in Paris. The firm began to decline in prestige in the early 1870s, and, after Lemercier's death in 1887, its descent only quickened. It is unclear when the firm closed, but Alfred directed the firm until his death in 1901. Learn More...

Claude Arthus-Bertrand (1769-1840) was a French army officer during the French Revolution. In the Napoleonic era, he founded a firm (Arthus-Bertrand, 1803 – present) that specializes in producing military medals, decorations, and insignia, often for the French government. Arthus-Bertrand was also an enthusiast of scientific expeditions and founded a publisher to promote them, which became the official editor of the Ministère de la Marine in the 1830s, where it oversaw the publication of the accounts of the 1836 – 1837 Bonite expedition that circumnavigated the globe. Learn More...

Ackermann (1795 - 199x) was a British publishing firm founded by Rudolph Ackermann (April 20, 1764 - March 30, 1834). First known as R. Ackermann and Company, Ackermann's three sons took over the business when their father retired. The firm was known as A. Ackermann and Son in the early 20th century and had offices in London, Paris, New York, and Chicago. Their New York office was exceptionally prolific, issuing work for both the private and government sectors. Ackermann was acquired in late 1990s and the imprint resurrected. Learn More...


Album Historique, (Paris: Arthus Bertrand) c. 1841.    


Very good. Toning in the margins.


OCLC 221645138, 1040060142.