[43.1 x 27.7 cm], Two folio bifolia, each with letterpress text, woodcuts, and manuscript text on the first leaf. Retaining deckle edge on all sides, folded and annotated as typical of such documents, one of the documents a bit weak at the folds, otherwise very well preserved.
Two rare folio-size maritime insurance policies from 1770s Marseille relating to mercantile voyages to France’s American colonies in the Caribbean, and valuable witnesses to the more practical, bureaucratic aspects of maritime trade in late 18th-century France. Each document is illustrated with the three large woodcut seals of the city and carries in letterpress the standard legal formulas particular to Marseille, as well as extensive manuscript notes and signatures completing the policy.
The earlier of the two policies, signed in May of 1774, relates to the vessel La Gentille, likely the frigate later recorded as having taken part in the 1780 Battle of Martinique, a stalemate between the French and British navies during the American War of Independence. The second policy, signed on 3 November 1777, concerns the Bon Pasteur, a ship under the command of captain Pierre Antoine Massier. Historical records show that this policy was nearly redeemed: Returning from Martinique in late December, the Bon Pasteur was fired upon by the British frigate Westmoreland off the coast of Cabo de Gata in Spain, boarded by six men (each armed with a brace of pistols and a saber), and Captain Massier roughly handled. The English suspected that the Bon Pasteur was not carrying goods from Martinique, but from New England (tobacco, rice), which would have been in violation of the protectionist economic policies common in both the French and British colonies in the Americas. After several sailors aboard the Bon Pasteur were thoroughly questioned, the ship was sent on its way (and its insurers in Marseille breathed a sigh of relief).
OCLC does not locate any institutional copies of Marseille policies of this sort.
* B.-M. Emerigon and P. S. Boulay-Paty, Traité des assurances et de contrats à la grosse, vol. 1, pp. 54-5; Bulletin de la Socété archéologique, historique et artistique, vol. 3, pp. 277-8; Observations sur le Mémoire justificatif de la cour de Londres (1780), pp. 12-3.