Guide to the Voyage aux Terres Australes


MS 1787

National Library of Australia View Catalogue Record

Created: 1964

Collection Summary

Pierre Bernard Milius
Voyage aux Terres Australes
Date Range
Collection Number
MS 1787
0.45 metres (1 medium folio box)
Language of Materials
National Library of Australia


Scope and Contents

Milius' narrative of the voyage is written on leaves 3-93 recto (181 written pages of the total 258 1/2). He narrates the voyage of the Naturaliste to 18 May, 1802, when he was landed sick in Sydney, his stay in New South Wales, his voyage to China and thence to the Ile de France, his appointment to the Géographe after the death of Baudin and the voyage of the Géographe to Lorient.

Supporting documents occupy the rest of the MS. They include a French-Malay vocabulary, a Kaffir-French-Dutch vocabulary and a French translation of a Dutch account of a voyage to New Guinea by the sloop Walingen in 1663 (Extract from the Description of Banda by F. Valentijn, in his Oud en nieuw Oost Indien. Fol. 5 Pts. Dordrecht, 1724-1726. Decl 3, Stuk 2, pp.58-61.)

A short version of the narrative of the voyage to China and thence to the Ile de France was published in Annales Maritimes, 1817, pp.673-700 and 1818, pp.349-361. This includes the Kaffir-French-Dutch vocabulary but not the French-Malay one.

The narrative gives detailed descriptions of places, natives and natural history. Discoveries and observations in Australia occupy leaves 8-19, 33-56 (i.e. about 72pp.)

The MS. is bound in a folio volume, the cover straight grained red morocco, lettered on spine: Voyage aux Terres Australes. The volume has a red cloth covered solander case lined with soft white felt and lettered on lid: Voyage Aux Terres Australes / Admiral Milius MS. On the flyleaf there is a pencil note: [par le baron P.B. Milius]. The initials P.B. apparently considered insufficiently clear, have been crossed out and written more clearly.

Loose in the front of the volume are the following items: 1. Part of a typescript letter from Fisher & Sperr (see part of letter on their letterhead loose in the volume of drawings: E. Denisse - Dessins Originaux, separate description of this volume follows.) The letter sketches the circumstances in which the manuscript was written and describes its contents. 2. Portrait in crayon on cartridge paper without watermark. Probably a portrait of Milius as a young man. The paper measures 8 1/2" × 7" and the drawing is about 5" high.

The MS. is written on laid ruled paper in two hands with a few manuscript corrections ascribed by Fisher & Sperr to Milius. They suggest that the MS. was transcribed by the orders of Milius or possibly dictated by him. From its contents it is clear that it was composed after the return to France in 1804 and the style indicates that it was designed as a readable narrative for possible publication. On the other hand it has not been completed for this purpose for there are blanks for dates and little attempt seems to have been made to transcribe names correctly, e.g. the New South Wales names "Port Jakson" and "Auxbury" (Hawkesbury).

The leaves are numbered in pencil, 11. 1-2 being two unruled blank leaves. The MS. begins on the recto of leaf 3. The pencil numbering is not correct throughout and, although altered in places, is still incorrect from 1.101. With some repeats and omissions the numbering is ten out from 101 onwards. Someone has been aware of this for the leaf numbered 124 has been altered to 132. The last pencil number 125 is on the ruled blank leaf at the end. I make this 1.135.

The MS. is written on 11.3-134. The following pages are blank: 11.1-2, rectos and versos, 120 recto and verso, 64, 134 versos, 126 recto and about half of 100 verso.

Similar paper is used throughout the volume except for endpapers and flyleaves. The watermark Bouchet on one side of the sheet and a scallop shell on the other occurs throughout as far as I have checked. The name is usually I. ♥ Bouchet or I. Bouchet and the design of the shell varies. On some leaves the shell is surmounted by a five pointed star. The only record I have found of the name Bouchet and the shell surmounted by a five pointed star watermark is in Klepikov, S.A. - Filigrani ... XVII - XX centuries. Moscow, 1959. (Transliterated, the book is in Russian.) Section B of Klepikov's lists, Watermarks by foreign papermakers, no. 930A (p.78), lists Bouchet (cursive) - a five pointed star on a shell, 1818. (My translation). Of course the firm could have been in existence over a long period and have varied its mark. All that the watermarks I have noted prove is that the paper for the MS. was probably purchased in the early nineteenth century and chosen so that the paper throughout should match.

Conditions Governing Access

Please refer to the collection's catalogue record ( for the access conditions.

Conditions Governing Use

Copying and publishing of unpublished manuscript material is subject to copyright restrictions. For such material, written permission to publish must be obtained from the copyright holder(s). Copying of unpublished material for research purposes is permissible 50 years after the death of the creator of the material.

Preferred Citation

Items from this collection should be cited as '[Title or description of manuscript item], Voyage aux Terres Australes, National Library of Australia, MS 1787'.

Biographical Note

Pierre Bernard Milius (1773-1829) was born at Bordeaux. He entered the French Navy, became a lieutenant on 21 March 1796 and took part that year in the expedition to Ireland. He was taken prisoner and did not return to France until 1799. In 1800 he was appointed to the Corvette Le Naturaliste (Captain Emmanuel Hamelin), one of two ships under the command of Nicolas Baudin. The other ship was the Corvette Le Géographe and the object of the expedition was the exploration of the coasts of Australia. Milius was left ill at Port Jackson on 18 May, 1802. He sailed on the American ship Arthur (Captain Jenks) for China via the Solomons. He left China on 2 January, 1803 on the French ship La Diane (Commander le Chevalier Montault), disembarked in the Ile de France and was appointed to the command of the Géographe on 28 September, Baudin having died on the 16.

In 1805 Milius was in command of the frigate La Didon when she was captured by the English brig Phoenix on 10 August. He was taken prisoner for the second time and released on parole in June 1806. After further service he was sent in 1814 by Louis XVIII to take possession of French colonies in the Antilles, which by the recent treaty were to be returned to France. Milius was later made governor of the ile Bourbon and was created a baron for his services. His health broke down and he returned to France but was afterwards governor of Cayenne. He saw further service and was made a rear admiral in 1827. He was inspector of the ports of Brest, Cherbourg and Lorient. He died at Bourbonne-les-Bains on 11 August, 1829.

Item Descriptions

Folio volume containing drawings collected BY P.B. Milius (Item 1)

Large folio bound in green cloth, red russia label on front cover lettered: Denisse / Dessins Originaux / 1814.

All but one of the drawings are mounted, each page being about 17" high. The drawings are of various sizes, the one unmounted drawing is a pencil sketch of a scene probably in Timor. This and sixteen other pencil and watercolour drawings at the front of the volume appear to be connected with the Voyage aux Terres Australes, 1800-1804 commanded by Baudin.

The rest of the drawings are of plants and are nearly all signed by Etienne Denisse and dated 1814. In 1814 Denisse sailed with Milius to the Antilles.

The volume has a blue cloth covered solander case lined with soft white felt and lettered on lid: E. Denisse / Dessins Originaux / 1814.

Loose in the volume is a part of a letter with letterhead: Fisher & Sperr, Booksellers, 46 Highgate High Street, London N.6. Fisher & Sperr state that the volume appears to have belonged to Milius.

The volume contains four watercolour drawings signed by Milius and nine drawings, one signed, by Nicolas Martin Petit, one of the artists who sailed on the Géographe with Baudin. These thirteen drawings with the pencil drawing of a scene probably in Timor and three unsigned and rather primitive drawings (a pencil drawing of a bull and two watercolours of seabirds one unnamed and one entitled Le Lorient) make up the seventeen drawings connected with Baudin's voyage, 1800-1804. The rest of the drawings are by Denisse as stated above. Fisher & Sperr ascribe the bull and the two seabirds to Petit but they are not in his style. They also state that four of the drawings by Petit are of Australian aborigines. One of these is a sketch for a larger and more finished drawing which Fisher & Sperr state is of a Sumatrian. Of the other three, two are studies of the same man. These three drawings are plates 12 to 14. 12 and 14 depict the same cleanshaven man with very distended stomach carrying a sharp pointed spear. Plate 13 depicts a bearded man holding a throwing stick attached to a spear with barbed point. He carries a club in his left hand.

Of the botanical drawings by Denisse, some are watercolours but the majority are pencil. They include many well known tropical plants, manioc, arum, pineapple, vanilla, banana, coconut, etc. Plate 35 is entitled Cicca distica - Grappe d'otahiti and plate 54 is entitled Jasmin Botany Bay. Fisher & Sperr say there are two drawings of Australian plants but I have not found the other.

Plate 34 has an inscription: dernière feuille de la collection / du jardin des planted / venant des colonies / françaises / Dessinées / abord du V - sseau le lys / par Etienne Denisse / pendant la mois de Decembre / l'an 1814e.

Plate 50 has an inscription: dessiné abord du Vaisseau / le lys / Commandé par Monsieur Milius.