SCHELCHER, Xavier Eugène, & Georges Charpentier (illus.)

Croisière du Steam-Yacht Medjé en Angleterre, Ecosse et Irlande, Juillet-Août, 1892 - original manuscript account with finely engraved illustrations.

Paris: c.1893 Stock Code: 134814
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Superbly executed illustrated manuscript recording a pleasure cruise in British waters on the steam-yacht Medjé in the summer of 1892. The trip won the Union des yachts français medal for the most interesting voyage 1891-3 - sharp silver print of the medal and presentation letter from the comte de Montaigu mounted third front blank - and this account was published in Le Yacht in 1894.

Observant and witty account of a Belle Époque touristic yachting cruise, a virtual circumnavigation of the British Isles - shortcutting via Caledonian Canal - in the steam-yacht Medjé, featuring superbly executed etched illustrations from pen-and-ink drawings by noted Rochellois maritime artist Georges Charpentier (1846-1925). The yacht was owned by Xavier Eugene Schelcher (1867-1948), a wealthy Parisian stockbroker and financier, and a newly accepted member of the prestigious Union des yachts francais.

Setting out from Le Havre in July, 1892, the Medjé made her way along the English coast to Plymouth, on the way nonchalantly passing through the various squadrons engaged in the annual Royal Naval Manoeuvres in the channel, stirring rumours that "she had on board a party of French naval officers, who had come to see and learn anything that might be of interest to them" (Daily Graphic, 16 February 1894). At Plymouth they were immediately welcomed by a Naval officer who puts a steam launch at their disposal, providing an organised tour of the various installations, and a "lunch excellent . tea, toastes sic, whisky and soda, baba, sandwiches &c." Again on their way, they pot shot some sea birds and swim off Penzance before crossing the St. George's Channel to Ireland where they visit the Royal Irish Yacht Club in Kingstown Dún Laoghaire. At Dublin, Schelcher writes of the extreme poverty of the populace, remarking "the clothing of Irishmen of the lowest class is utterly bizarre est tout un poeme; by the docks we saw a man topped off coiffé with a filthy and battered top hat; just one leg to his trousers the other cut off, a no one except us noticed. It seemed totally normal! Poor Ireland!" The description is accompanied by a characterful sketch by Charpentier, who had also noticed that the Dubliner had but one shoe.

They take the train into Wicklow, marvelling at the line as it follows the coast "overhanging the sea", hiking the beauty spots at Ovoca and Glendalough. A crossing to Holyhead allows a visit to Liverpool, "the second city of England with beautiful views and grand monuments", and Birkenhead where "les ateliers Cochkran sic" build "les plus belles machines, notamment celles de la Medjé. Ce n'est pas une mince gloire a nos yeux no small glory to our eyes!". A trip to the Isle of Man takes in the beauties of Sulby Glen and Snaefel, and the horrors of Ramsey "a cheap little hole, no hotel, a bad boarding house where the crowd of day trippers throngs, detestable lunch"; back in Douglas after supper they "dawdle to the Palace Theatre, one of the many 'music halls'" there. Back in Ireland a visit to Belfast and to Robinson Cleaver, the city's grandest linen emporium, to buy handkerchieves of Irish cambric and "des bath towels (serviettes de bain) remarquables", and then to the Giant's Causeway.

The following morning they depart for Glasgow, with side trips to Iona and Staffa, and thence through the Caledonian Canal from Corpach to Inverness, the text accompnaied by some excellent illustrations by Charpentier, including one of the spectacular series of locks known as Neptune's Staircase. Scotland's scenery, its "great forests and moors", creates a deep impression, as does Edinburgh "très belle ville", well deserving of its nickname as the Athens of the North. Dinner at the Royal British Hotel offers a "bon menu", apart from the "mania for serving grouse overhung trop avancées". From their moorings at Granton they venture to the lakes and the Trossachs, happy to be in the "théâtre des episodes de Walter Scott", impressed by the "gigantic trees and serried plants like a virgin forest; waterfalls, the chill humidity, romantic sadness". The return leg down the East coast - Berwick, Newcastle, Scarborough, Harwich, Ramsgate - is effected at a rather accelerated rate, and with little pleasure; "Because of its mines and factories, Newcastle offers the visitor only a dungeon; dusty old museums as black as the town". So, it is with some delight that spy their homeland; "Nos coeurs palpitent: nous reconnaissons Gris Nez. Hurrah! Voici la terre de France!". Parts of the present account were published in the 20 January 1894 issue of Le Yacht magazine, a specialist publication founded in 1878, and produced by and for enthusiasts.

The Medjé was a 25 meter, 43 ton steam twin-screwed sailing yacht built by Maudslay, Son & Fields at their Greenwich shipyards in 1889, power supplied by two engines installed Cochran & Co. at Birkenhead, delivering 96 h.p. Schelcher also raced sailboats, in the 1900 Paris Olympics his Phoenix took gold in the 72 and 24 kilometer races in the 10-15 meter vessel class. His son Remi Schelcher (1905-1988) would later race in the 1936 Berlin Olympics in the 8 meter sailboat class, placing 9th. Schelcher apparently commissioned a similar album for his 1897 voyage in the Medje to the Norwegian Fjords with illustrations by Alexandre Brun (1853-1941), another noted maritime artist who contributed to Le Yacht and other nautical magazines.

A handsomely produced, well illustrated and lively record of a cruise during the heyday of luxury yachting, offering an occasionally satirical tourist's-eye glimpse of Britain at the turn of the twentieth century.

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Quarto (318 x 247 mm). Contemporary strong orange half morocco by Victor Champs, French curl on Turkish pattern marbled boards, title gilt to the spine, neatly nipped bands, dotted roll gilt, fouled anchor devices to the compartments, double gilt ruled frame with olive sprig cornerpieces, author's initials to the tail of the spine, top edge gilt, the others uncut, marbled endpapers to match the boards, silk page-marker.


57 leaves of neat manuscript text, titles and headings in a calligraphic Ronde hand, occasional rubrication; 52 superb etched plates after pen and ink drawings by Charpentier, the first additionally signed "A. Barret Sc.", deck plan, and full-page track-c


A little rubbed at the extremities, lower joint chafed and just starting head and tail, contents clean, very good indeed.


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