Rare ship engravings from 1690

17TH century mediterranean
nautical architecture

henri sbonski DE passebon

These very rare copperplate engravings record the variety of ships commonly seen in the Mediterranean at the end of the 17th century with an emphasis on vessels flying the French flag.  These plates come from the earliest edition of a volume titled "Plan de Plusieurs Batiments de Mer avec leurs Proportions" by Henri Sbonski de Passebon. In the title page of that work  Passebon describes himself as "Lieutenant d’une des Galeres du Roy" (Lieutenant of one of the King’s Galley’s).  Passebon's affiliation with the galley service is reflected in the unusual number of plates that depict vessels in that service; 6 of the original 17 plates are of galleys or of a larger oared galley-like vessel, the galeasse.

Passebon Title Page: Not for sale

Title Page: Plan de Plusieurs Batiments de Mer ...

More than 100 years ago, in 1904,  Bernard Quaritch noted the scarcity of the work: "It is one of the most interesting books on naval architecture and one of the rarest."  The volume was first published from Marseille where, in the late 17th century the arsenal was home port to the galley service of Louis XIV.  Each plate was engraved by Claude Randon, and contains the imprint of the seller: "Se vendent a Marseilles chez Laurent Bremond sur le port au Coin de reboul." Bremond was a Marseilles-based hydrographer also with the Corps des Galeres.

Quaritch placed the publication date at around 1690.   At the end of the 17th century, when the engravings were produced the galley service was at its peak, with at least 40 galleys, most in the Mediterranean.  Shortly after they were first published in Marseilles the engravings were re-engraved and reproduced in Amsterdam by Pierre Mortier (1693)  in the same way that Mortier reproduced the charts from Jaillot's well-known atlas, the Neptune Francois.

Noble origins


Henri Sbonski de Passebon was born in 1637 in Sedan, France.  The Sbonski-Passebon family lineage was documented by Badier in 1770 and it is from that source that we know a bit about the life of Henri Sbonski (Zbonski) de Passebon.  Passebon was the descendant of a noble family originally from Poland.  He was born to a distinguished father, Jean-Francois Sbonski-Passebon, who was Duc de Bouillon, Marshall of the Royal Camps and Armies, and Prevost of the province of Haut & Bas Limousin.  Henri had two brothers- David, who died at a young age and Frederic, a Regimental Colonel serving in Holland.  Henri married Margueritte de Brousson in October 1678 and had two sons, one of whom Henry Sbonski de Passebon II also served in the Corps des Galeres.


Sbonski de Passebon served in the Corps des Galeres of Louis XIV for more than 30 years, rising to the rank of Captain in 1696.   Badier documented Henri Sbonski de Passebon’s progression through the ranks of the Corps des Galeres:
·       Sous-Lieutenant de Galere - 1670
Lieutenant de Galeres - 1676
Louis XIV granted a pension of 1000 livres - 1687
Capitaine-Lieutenant - 1693
Capitaine - 1696
Sbonki de Passebon is known to have served his country in at least two battles: aboard La Galante during the expedition to Messina in 1676 and at the bombardment of Genoa in 1684 aboard La Perle.
Passebon died at Marseilles in January 1705.


Pay by credit card

RareCharts accepts payment by Visa credit card. Discover card also is gladly accepted. RareCharts accepts MasterCard payments. American Express is gladly accepted.

PayPal is gladly accepted by RareCharts.