André de Chapuiset Le Merle (1898–1966) was born at Beau Champ Sugar Estate in Mauritius. He worked on a sugar estate called Bénarès, in the south of Mauritius, and later on an estate at Vallon, Ferney. He was a member of the Society of History of Mauritius.
The Library purchased the Mauritius Collection through an English dealer, E.M. Lawson & Co., in 1968. The owner was the wife of Le Merle.
The Mauritius Collection contains about 2100 books, pamphlets, government publications, reprints from scientific journals, tourist booklets, magazines and other works published over three centuries. Most of the works are in French or English, but there are also a few items in Mauritian Creole, including catechisms, gospels and an edition of François Chrestien’s book of fables, Les essais d’un bobre africain (1831), written in both Creole and French.
The collection is strong in early works relating to Mauritius and the Indian Ocean, with 67 items published before 1801 and about 710 published in the nineteenth century. A few of the earliest imprints are:
Herbert, Thomas, Relation of some yeares travail begunne anno 1626 into Afrique and the greater Asia (1634)
Herbert, Thomas, Relation du voyage de Perse et des Indes orientales (1663)
La Barbinais, Le Gentil de, Nouveau voyage autour du monde (1728)
La Caille, Nicolas Louis, Journal historique du voyage fait au Cap de Bonne-Esperance (1763)
Leguat, François, Voyage et aventures de François Leguat, & de ses compagnons, en deux isles desertes des indes orientales (2 vols, 1708)
Saint-Pierre, Bernadin de, Voyage à l’isle de France, à l’isle de Bourbon au Cap de Bonne-Esperance (2 vols, 1773)
Sonnerat, Pierre, Voyage aux indes Orientales et à la Chine, fait par ordre du Roi, depuis 1774 jusqu’en 1781 (3 vols, 1782).
While the bulk of the works were published in Mauritius or relate to Mauritius, there are also books dealing with Magagascar, Réunion (île Bourbon), Rodrigues, the Seychelles and the Indian Ocean generally. The subject range of the collection is very broad and includes history, voyages, travel, geography, colonial governors, public administration, law, statutes and regulations, defence, piracy, education, census, water supply, irrigation, industrial relations, slavery, agriculture, sugar industry, medicine, public health, naval history, clubs and societies, language, literary criticism, theatre, religion, churches and religious foundations, Hinduism, cyclones, fauna, birds (especially the dodo) and marine biology. The collection is also strong in novels, plays and collections of poetry and essays. There are several editions of Paul et Virginie, the famous novel by Bernadin de Saint-Pierre, first published in 1787. Modern writers are well represented, such as the poet Robert-Edward Hart and the philosopher Malcolm de Chazal.
The Mauritius Collection contains a miscellaneous group of manuscripts. They include letters and documents by governors such as Bertrand de la Bourdonnais, Joseph Charpentier de Cossigny, Charles De Caen and Sir John Pope-Hennessy, a copy of a census of Mauritius (1776), journals of the ships Kent (1800) and Leven(1824), a transcript of T. Egerton’s account of the conquest of Mauritius (1811), a memorial on the position of the Catholic Church in Mauritius (1885), letters received by Sir William Newton (1881–1916), a report by Frank Wilson on cane planting (1932), a register of tombs at the Port Louis cemetery (1825–41) and a few genealogical items.
There is a small group of letters received by André de Chapuiset Le Merle, some of them from his family and some from booksellers, librarians, officials and others mainly relating to his collection.
Most of the printed materials in the Mauritius Collection are kept together in the Asian Collections. They have been catalogued individually and the call numbers have the prefix MAUR or MAURef. The pre-1801 books are housed in the Rare Books Collection in the MISC run. The manuscripts and personal papers are held in the Manuscripts Collection at MS 2282. They occupy four boxes. A seven-page summary listing is available online at http://nla.gov.au/nla.obj-241525569/findingaid.
Duyker, Edward, Histoire Genéalogique: Mauritius and Family History at the National Library, National Library of Australia News, vol. 4 (1), October 1993, pp. 4–6.
Morgan, Helen, Tropical Island Treasure: The Mauritius Collection, National Library of Australia News, vol. 17 (10), July 2007, pp. 18–21.
The Indian Ocean: A Select Bibliography of Resources for Study in the National Library of Australia, National Library of Australia, Canberra, 1979.
First posted 2008 (revised 2019)