Jean-Baptiste Benoît Eyriès

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Jean-Baptiste Benoît Eyriès
Born(1767-06-24)24 June 1767
Marseille, France
Died13 June 1846(1846-06-13) (aged 78)
Graville, Le Havre
Resting placeGraville priory
OccupationGeographer, translator
Alma materCollege of Juilly
GenreAcademic, Gothic
SubjectTravel, geography
Notable worksFantasmagoriana
Notable awardsLegion of Honour

Jean-Baptiste Benoît Eyriès (French: [ʒɑ̃ ba.tist bə.nwa ɛː.rjɛs]; 24 June 1767 – 13 June 1846) was a French geographer, author and translator, best remembered in the English speaking world for his translation of German ghost stories Fantasmagoriana, published anonymously in 1812, which inspired Mary Shelley and John William Polidori to write Frankenstein and The Vampyre respectively. He was one of the founding members of the Société de Géographie, a member of the Société Asiatique, admitted to the Académie des Inscriptions et Belles-Lettres, awarded the Legion of Honour, elected a Foreign Honorary Member of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences in 1841,[1] and has a street named after him in Le Havre and a mountain near Humboldt Bay.[2][3][4][5]


Born in Marseille on 24 June 1767, the son of Jacques-Joseph Eyriès, a "lieutenant de frégates du roi" ("lieutenant of the king's frigates"), and Jeanne-Françoise Deluy (1748–1826). He moved to Le Havre in 1772 when his father was promoted to "commandant de la Marine" ("commander of the Navy"), and went to study at the College of Juilly. Eyriès began to travel to England, Germany, Sweden and Denmark to learn their languages and study botany and mineralogy, and through it grew to love geography and travel. Returning to Le Havre, he began working in the armaments trade, including commercial expeditions to various parts of the world, while taking care of a natural history museum there. In 1794 he went to Paris to deliver his father, who had been detained as a suspect in the new Republic, moving there the following year to devote himself to his studies, where he attended lectures by Antoine Laurent de Jussieu and Georges Cuvier, and started collecting old travel books.[2][4]

He was given a mission in 1804–1805 by Charles Maurice de Talleyrand-Périgord and Napoleon to travel to Germany and rally the French emigrants there, chosen for his knowledge of the country and language and his discretion. He used the opportunity to continue his collection, but turned down the title "conseiller d’État" ("councillor of the State") to keep his independence, allowing him to devote himself entirely to geography and botany, and return to Paris to settle. As a speaker of nine languages, he translated many articles and books from German, English and Scandinavian languages into French, mostly on travel and geography, but also including Fantasmagoriana from a selection of German ghost stories, which he published anonymously in 1812. From that year he became one of the drafters of the Biographie Universelle under editor Joseph François Michaud, writing many articles for it up until his death. His quality as a translator and extensive scientific knowledge earned him the friendship and admiration of many respected scientists, notably including Alexander von Humboldt and Conrad Malte-Brun, the latter of whom he joined in 1819 to continue the publication of Nouvelles Annales des Voyages, de la Géographie et de l’Histoire, a journal dedicated to the advancement of the earth sciences.[2][4]

In 1821 he became one of the 217 founding members of the world's first geographical society, the Société de Géographie, remaining one of the most active and on its central committee until his death; he was named honorary president, a prestigious title given to the likes of Pierre-Simon Laplace, Georges Cuvier, Alexander von Humboldt and François-René de Chateaubriand. He was a recognised geographer, and Jules Dumont d'Urville named a mountain "Eyriès" after him near Humboldt Bay during his voyage on the Astrolabe. He was admitted to the Académie des Inscriptions et Belles-Lettres in 1839, and was awarded the Legion of Honour in 1844.[2]

Eyriès suffered a stroke in 1844, rendering him incapable of further work, and died on 13 June 1846 at the house of his brother Alexandre Eyriès, the mayor of Graville near Le Havre, and was buried in the cemetery of Graville priory, with an inscription on his tombstone after Edme François Jomard. He left a library of about 20,000 volumes collected throughout his life, which reflect his interest in rare and old works on travel and geography, and included almost everything written on Normandy, Le Havre and Provence, with rare maps from the German and Scandinavian countries, some of which are not even in the Bibliothèque nationale de France. Many of these books, and some of his manuscripts, remain as of 2006 in the municipal library of Le Havre, and a street "Rue Jean Baptiste Eyries" was named after him in the city. Eyriès was remembered by his contemporaries for his erudition, selfless dedication, prodigious memory, critical thinking and modesty, and Pierre Larousse wrote of him: "Many people still remember seeing a little old man in antiquated clothes, wearing a wide-brimmed hat and reading along the waterfront: that was Eyriès, who worked to fill his vast memory and his rich library at the same time."[2][4]


As author[edit]

  • Biographie Universelle, contributor, 1812 ff.
  • Abrégé des Voyages Modernes Depuis 1780 Jusqu'à Nos Jours, 14 volumes, 1822–1824
  • Bibliomappe, ou Livre-cartes, textes analytiques, tableaux et cartes indiquant graduellement la géographie naturelle, les divisions géographiques, politiques, civiles, etc., les noms géographiques, historiques de tous les âges et de toutes les parties de l'univers, avec l'indication chronologique des découvertes des navigateurs, des changements survenus dans la circonscription des États, leurs dénominations, etc., with Jacques-Charles Bailleul and Pierre Claude François Daunou, 2 volumes, 1824–1826
  • Abrégé de géographie moderne, ou Description historique, politique, civile et naturelle des empires, royaumes, états et leurs colonies, avec celle des mers et des îles de toutes les parties du monde, with John Pinkerton and Charles Athanase Walckenaer, 2 volumes, 1827
  • Recherches sur la population du globe terrestre, 1833
  • Voyage pittoresque en Asie et en Afrique, résumé général des voyages anciens et modernes, 1839
  • L'Univers, histoire et description de tous les peuples : Danemark, 1846
  • Dictionnaire de géographie ancienne et moderne, with E. G. Béraud, 1847

As editor[edit]

  • Jean-Louis-Hubert-Simon Deperthes: Histoire des naufrages, délaissements de matelots, hivernages, incendies de navires et autres désastres de mer, recueillis des plus authentiques relations, 3 volumes, 1815–1818
  • Nouvelles Annales des Voyages, de la Géographie et de l’Histoire, periodical, 1819–?
  • Charles Cochelet: Naufrage du brick français La Sophie, perdu le 30 mai 1819 sur la côte occidentale d'Afrique, et captivité d'une partie des naufragés dans le désert du Sahara, avec de nouveaux renseignements sur la ville de Timectou, 2 volumes, 1821

As translator[edit]

  • William Robert Broughton: Voyage de découvertes dans la partie septentrionale de l'océan Pacifique, fait par le capitaine W. R. Broughton, pendant les années 1795, 1796, 1797 et 1798, 2 volumes, 1807
  • Friedrich August Schulze: Voyage en Pologne et en Allemagne fait en 1793 par un Livonien, où on trouve des détails très étendus sur la révolution de Pologne, en 1791 et en 1794, ainsi que la description de Varsovie, Dresde, Nurenberg, Vienne, Munich, etc., 2 volumes, 1807
  • Alexander von Humboldt: Tableaux de la nature, 1808
  • Johann August Apel, Friedrich Laun, Johann Karl August Musäus & Heinrich Clauren: Fantasmagoriana; ou Recueil d'Histoires, d'Apparitions, de Spectres, Revenans, Fantômes, etc., traduit de l'allemand, par un amateur, anonymously, 2 volumes, 1812
  • James Morier: Voyage en Perse, en Arménie, en Asie-Mineure et à Constantinople, 3 volumes, 1813
  • John Mawe: Voyages dans l'intérieur du Brésil, particulièrement dans les districts de l'or et du diamant, faits avec l'autorisation du prince régent de Portugal en 1809 et en 1810, contenant aussi un voyage au Rio-de-la-Plata et un essai historique sur la révolution de Buenos-Ayres, 1816
  • Leopold von Buch: Voyage en Norvège et en Laponie, fait dans les années 1806, 1807 et 1808, 2 volumes, 1816
  • John Aikin: Annales du règne de Georges III, depuis l'avènement de ce monarque jusqu'à la paix générale conclue en 1815, 3 volumes, 1817
  • Vasili Mikhailovich Golovnin: Voyage de M. Golovnin, contenant le récit de sa captivité chez les Japonais, pendant les années 1811, 1812 et 1813, et ses observations sur l'Empire du Japon, suivi de la relation du voyage de M. Ricord, aux côtes du Japon en 1812 et 1813, 2 volumes, 1818
  • Henry Pottinger: Voyages dans le Béloutchistan et le Sindhy, suivis de la description géographique et historique de ces deux pays, 2 volumes, 1818
  • Adam Johann von Krusenstern: Voyage autour du monde fait dans les années 1803, 1804, 1805 et 1806, 2 volumes, 1821
  • Maximilian zu Wied-Neuwied: Voyage au Brésil dans les années 1815, 1816 et 1817, 3 volumes, 1821–1822
  • Alexander Gordon Laing: Voyage dans le Timanni, le Kouranko et le Soulimana, avec Philippe François Lasnon de La Renaudière, 1826
  • Egor Fedorovitch Timkovskiĭ: Voyage à Péking, à travers la Mongolie, en 1820 et 1821, 2 volumes, 1827
  • Hugh Clapperton: Second voyage dans l'intérieur de l'Afrique, depuis le golfe de Benin jusqu'à Sackatou, par le capitaine Clapperton, pendant les années 1825, 1826 et 1827, suivi du Voyage de Richard Lander, de Kano à la côte maritime, 2 volumes, 1829
  • Johann Ludwig Burckhardt: Voyages en Arabie, contenant la description des parties du Hedjaz regardées comme sacrées par les Musulmans, suivis de Notes sur les Bédouins et d'un Essai sur l'histoire des Wahabites, 3 volumes, 1835
  • Michael Joseph Quin: Voyage sur le Danube de Pest à Roustchouk, 1836


  1. ^ "Book of Members, 1780–2010: Chapter E" (PDF). American Academy of Arts and Sciences. Retrieved 7 August 2014.
  2. ^ a b c d e Coste, Hélène (January 2006). "Conserver et mettre en valeur des cartes et plans en bibliothèque municipale : l'exemple de la collection Chardey au Havre" (PDF). Mémoire d’étude (in French). École nationale supérieure des sciences de l'information et des bibliothèques. 1: 23–25. Retrieved 4 August 2012.
  3. ^ Thomas, Joseph (1908). Universal Pronouncing Dictionary of Biography and Mythology. 1 (3rd revised ed.). Philadelphia: J. B. Lippincott. p. 952.
  4. ^ a b c d Larousse, Joseph (1870). Grand Dictionnaire Universel du XIXe Siècle (in French). 7. Paris: Administration du Grand Dictionnaire Universel. p. 1235.
  5. ^ "Fellows of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences". Memoirs of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences. New Series. Cambridge, MA: American Academy of Arts & Sciences. 2: 561. 1846. JSTOR 25057936.

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