Precious manuscript dedicated to the signals of the naval army, invented and written by Anne Hilarion de Costentin (Paris, 1642 – Paris, 1701) count de Tourville, who defeated the Anglo-Dutch fleet at Cape Béveziers (Beachy Head in English) in 1690. A charming illustrated manuscript with fine watercolours, each representing ships and their flags.
Thanks to his military exploits he was appointed vice-admiral of the Levant in 1689, then Marshal of France in 1693 after the famous battle of Lagos. During the confrontation the French fleet defeated the Anglo-Dutch fleet escorting a very important convoy to the Levant. Under Tourville’s command the Anglo-Dutch loss was so great that it led to a financial disaster and a series of bankruptcies of shipowners in London.
Gatherings of vessels of a certain size required the establishment of a code of signals. This manuscript presents 228 specific cases in as many colourful illustrations to distinguish the many types of signs used by the signals.
In clear weather, flags and flames sent out in seven locations (ensign staff, mizzen yard, mizzen mast, foremast, small mizzen mast bar, large mizzen mast bars, and bowsprit) are used. In foggy weather, the signals are no longer visual but audible. The use of the cannon is distinguished by varying the number and interval of shots, as is the use of musketry. To this can be added the jingling or ringing of bells, as well as the use of the drum. At night, lanterns are the main resource, their number and location vary. In addition to the lanterns, there are other sources of light, the priming lights, and the cannon fire, which can also be used during the day in combination with the flags or flames.
As de Tourville was not promoted to the title of Marshal until 1693, the manuscript, despite the date 1690 on the title, could not have been completed before his promotion.
Another copy of this manual is known, given to King Louis XIV by de Tourville himself in 1693. This work of 48 plates, also watercoloured, is today preserved at the Service Historique de la Défense in Vincennes (reference SH 124). The illustrations always show two ships and their flags. Thus, the composition differs from our copy.
The transmission of orders was often delicate and thorny. Tourville then found a powerful and efficient system for communicating that constituted the most elaborate set of instructions on signals that had appeared at that time.
Tourville’s system is therefore a principle. In addition, his organisation of signals and the knowledge they constitute were transcribed and printed in a folio volume. His trace is found in 1744 at the Mallard brothers in Toulon.
Jacques III de Mucie’s copy, président à mortier au parlement de Bourgogne.
Jacques III de Mucie, lord of Neuilly-lès-Dijon and Sennecey, was a councillor (1663) and then President à mortier (1681) at the Parliament of Burgundy and Intendant of the Navy in Burgundy and Bresse. He was the son of Jacques II de Mucie, councillor in the parliament. He was married three times and had a daughter, Madeleine, who married Philibert Fyot de la Marche. When he died in 1704, his son-in-law took over the Parliament of Burgundy and inherited his books, as shown by the engraved bookplate mounted on the back cover.
Other provenance: Camille Audenet (ex libris. Audenent, 1824-1885 was a naval engineer and a member of the board of the Compagnie Transatlantique – this copy was part of an exhibition held at the Musée de la Marine organised by Michèle Polak.