Desbrière, Edouard.


Oxford, at the Clarendon Press, 2 Vols., 1st English translation, 1933. Vol. I : Xxvii + 320 pp., sepia facsimile frontis + 6 maps & plans (all fldg.) in rear pocket. Vol. II : Xii + 444 pp., 8 French & 5 Spanish (13 in all) maps & plans (all fldg.) in rear pocket. Both vols. in blue cloth ; gilt; lower edges uncut. 24 x 15cm. Signature of J. A. Hamilton, August 1934, on endpapers. Exceptionally Nr.FINE set. In Paris in 1907, Colonel Edouard Desbrière arranged to have published his great work, Trafalgar : La Campagne Maritime de 1805, a work that was set to become the definitive study of Nelson’s great victory. When Corbett produced his Campaign of Trafalgar three years later, it was designed to be an English companion and remains the best English account yet published. Desbrière’s work was the mainstay of the Admiralty’s study of Nelson’s tactics set up in 1913. This Committee reported : "As regards the ‘Combined’, or Franco-Spanish fleet, the diagram contained in Colonel Desbrière’s valuable volume on Trafalgar has been accepted, and it is followed in the plan which shows the position of the British fleet at noon on October 21. Colonel Desbrière has collected in his book all the relevant contemporary evidence supplied by French and Spanish official records concerning the position and movements of the Combined fleet in the hours immediately preceding the battle. This evidence he has sifted carefully, and has utilised so judiciously that there is little probability of his diagrams being improved upon". The author was chief of the Historical Section of the General Staff of the French Army, and an accomplished student of naval and military history who had, prior to 1907, produced an exhaustive four-volume work on French invasion plans and attempts on England between 1793 and 1805. English readers had to wait another quarter of a century before a translation of his Trafalgar study was published. This was accomplished in 1933 when Miss Constance Eastwick translated and edited Desbrière’s work in two volumes instead of one. Miss Eastwick furnished this edition with notes, references and additional information (including a bibliography and an index) with links to English accounts of the battle. Perhaps the most valuable part of the work is to be found in the second volume which contains letters and reports of French and Spanish officers. Copies of all the more important plans and diagrams of Trafalgar are to be found in the 19 folding examples in the two rear pockets. These include that of Captain Tizard which in 1913 the Admiralty Committee embodied in its findings. Miss Eastwick has not only translated the original text and notes as they stand, but has also corrected various errors of transcription in documents and mistaken references made by Desbrière (which Corbett had noticed) that are to be found in the first (French) edition of 1907. That the Admiralty in 1913 adopted almost all the conclusions reached by Desbrière speaks volumes for the indispensable nature of this work. Indeed no serious study of the Battle of Trafalgar can be made without it ; its historical importance cannot be overstated. Probably no more than 400 or 500 sets of this invaluable translation were printed which explains its scarcity today. This set is particularly crisp and bright – one of the best sets we have ever handled.

Share this book