First published in 1813, Jean Joseph Dauxion Lavaysse’s account of travels in Trinidad, Tobago, Margarita, and the captaincy-general of Venezuela serves as a useful supplement to the well-known contemporary accounts by Alexander von Humboldt and François de Pons. The present edition, the first in Spanish, is an attractively published study which reproduces the original two-volume work with its eight chapters of text and accompanying statistical tables, bibliography, and maps. Printed with each chapter are explanatory notes by the historian José Antonio Armas Chitty and the geographer Marco Aurelio Vila. The notes are valuable for eliminating confusion in the use of place names, dates, and references in the original text.

Dauxion Lavaysse combined the qualities of adventurer and diplomatic agent with those of an amateur botanist and geographer. The work reflects his diversity of interests with chapters ranging from the flora and fauna of Trinidad to the social mores of the inhabitants of the Venezuelan mainland. Volume one is devoted largely to describing the landscape, climate, and natural life of Trinidad. Included as well are three chapters of brief description of the island’s history from the discovery to the end of the first decade of British occupation. Students familiar with the works of Humboldt and De Pons will discover little that is new in the second volume’s description of the captaincy-general of Venezuela. The statistics and running commentary on the trade of Venezuela, however, are helpful to appreciate the important trade with the West Indies after 1789.

The preliminary study by Angelina Lemmo provides interesting, though necessarily scanty, biographical data, as well as background material on the Caribbean crisis from 1789-1816. Included in the documentary appendix is an informe written by Dauxion in 1808 and presumably addressed to Napoleon himself. In this extraordinary document Dauxion argues that French losses in the West Indies could be recouped by acquiring Trinidad, an area which, he argued, far surpassed France’s remaining territories of Martinque and Guadeloupe in “area, soil fertility, and the variety and wealth of its products” (Appendix I, p. lxxxi). The author’s proposal to include all of Venezuela as well in France’s New World domain may appear fantastic, but the document and much of the work as well attest to continuing French interest in the Caribbean and South America even after Napoleon’s projected invasion of St. Domingue had ended in disaster.