17TH century mediterranean
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.
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 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
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.
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 -
· Lieutenant de Galeres
· 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.
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