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An Exact Representation of the English & French Fleets: Laurie & Whittle 1798

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  • Title: An Exact Representation of the English & French Fleets
  • Author: Laurie & Whittle
  • Date: 1798
  • Medium: Hand-colored engraving
  • Condition: Very Good Plus - age toning, contemporary color (refreshed), cleaned and backed to tissue for stability, marginal loss into text at bottom with skillful reinstation of a few words and missing paper
  • Inches: 24 x 18 1/2 [Paper]
  • Centimeters: 60.96 x 46.99 [Paper]
  • Product ID: 314025

An Exact Representation of the English & French Fleets under the Command of Rear Admiral Sr. Horatio Nelson K.B. & Admiral Brueys off the Mouth of the Nile, on the 1st of August 1798.

Published 18th Octr. 1798 by Laurie & Whittle No. 53 Fleet Street.

An exceedingly rare English broadside account of Nelson’s victory at The Battle of the Nile. Printed on heavy paper, the piece's upper register shows a hand-colored map of the Egyptian coast near the mouth of the Nile. Also features a vignette insert of "the Castle" and the Bay of Bequire.

The bottom third of the page consists of text with references to landmarks on the map and letters from Nelson. The broadside seems to have been hastily assembled by Laurie & Whittle in an attempt to be the first to break the news; the bottom section was printed first, the top second, making the bottom text just slightly "off" relative to the image.

After serving his country during her struggles with the American colonies, and for a short period in the West Indies, Nelson found himself idled by peace. He spent five years with his wife until the outbreak of the French Revolution, when he received command of HMS Agamemnon and headed for the Mediterranean. He received many promotions and awards, but also was wounded several times during this period, suffering especially the loss of his right arm and blinding of his right eye. After chasing the French fleet around the eastern Mediterranean for several months, he finally caught up with them at the mouth of the Nile, on the first of August, 1798.

In what would become known as the Battle of the Nile (or alternatively the Battle of Aboukir), Nelson annihilated all but four of the fleet, sustaining slight wounds in this battle as well. The present plan was published a mere two-and-a-half months after the battle, a very short time considering Nelson's official dispatches were only printed in the London Gazette on October 2nd. The plan shows the height of the battle, with the British ships attacking the French on the leeward and the windward sides. Three French vessels are shown ablaze, most notably their flagship l'Orient. To the lower left is an inset view of the castle and bay of Bequire or Bokkier (Abu Qir), in which the French Commissary M. Poussielque can be seen viewing the action from atop the castle's keep. The lower register of the page includes a key, extracts from the London Gazette, a list of the English and French lines of battle, a list of French ships sunk, burnt or taken, and a list of the English killed and wounded. The text below this gives further information on the number of French casualties in the battle together with the news that the Maltese had begun a revolt against French rule.

Nelson’s career would only last a few more years. In late October, 1805, he would face a combined Franco-Spanish fleet at Trafalgar, and although the English victory was decisive, Nelson was fatally injured and died later that day, aged 47.

Rarity: One recorded sale, three held institutionally.