In the annals of Alpine Literature one book that has escaped the attention of historians and bibliographers. Coolidge, Mathews, Montagnier, Perret, Meckly et al. Souvenirs Pittoresques des Glaciers de Chamouny published in 1821 was for sale in Geneva from Gabriel Charton (Genève 1775-1853) an artist who is not well known, although having been one of the first to introduce lithography to Switzerland.

Illustrated with 18 ‘dessins colories’ which are exquisitely executed by hand and of exceptional quality, representing works of art in their own right are accompanied by descriptive text.

This is the very first illustrated guide for those who desired to travel the road from Geneva to Chamonix. The price was never set for the book as it would appear that only a handful of copies were prepared for publication. Each view is tipped into place on heavier card and the process may have become too painstaking and therefore too expensive to continue and perhaps the reason why only two other copies have been traced and none of the major Swiss or Alpine Club libraries possess one?

This town is built on a hill near the Rhone river, at the end of Lake Geneva. It is fortified according to Vauban's system. Its population is approximately 21,000 people. This town existed long before the Romans had conquered the territory of the Allobroges, of which it was one of the main towns. As soon as they became masters of the area, they fortified and constructed a wall flanked by towers, from the Island, following the left bank of the Rhône as far as the Wache mountain in order to protect themselves from the invasions of the Helvetians, a warlike people who occupied the right bank of the river.  This town passed under the control of Charlemagne who gave it to the bishops, under the condition that whilst he or his successors passed through Geneva, the chapter, led by the bishop, would go in front of his majesty and would carry the canopy over his sacred person; what is more, Geneva was a free and imperial town and was part of the Holy Roman Empire.  The republic took shape imperceptibly, either by concessions granted by the bishop to the citizens, either by the encroachments that they made on his authority. They had to sustain lengthy wars against the Dukes of Savoy who claimed to have rights over Geneva in their quality of lieutenants of the bishop. The citizens of Geneva embraced the reformation of Calvin in 1555. Their bishop retired to Annecy and kept the title of Prince-Bishop of Geneva. From that time on that town became the centre of Protestantism and the rival of Rome. - The principal industry of the inhabitants is clock and watchmaking and jewellery. They are industrious, thrifty, good merchants and very rich. They are reproached for being self-seeking and raisonneur. Geneva is the birthplace of several illustrious men. LE FORT, Prime Minister for Peter the Great; J.J. ROUSSEAU whose name belongs to the universe; BONNET, SENEBIER, erudite naturalists; DE SAUSSURE, distinguished physician whom we shall speak of again in this work; M.r NECKER who has been the Financial Superintendent under LouisXVI; and his daughter the Baroness DE STAEL, and many others that it would take too long to name here. - The attached drawing represents the town taken from Plainpalais, a pretty plain surrounded by trees and charming houses. Formerly it was only a marsh before the waters of the Rhône returned to the bed they occupy at present. It is the most beautiful and grandest promenade in all of Switzerland. Each year, the soldiers of the Canton do their manœuvres here and they draw enormous crowds. Nearby, on the banks of the Rhone is situated la Coulouvrenière, where it is possible to see the soldiers firing their arquebus and their muskets, an exercise that the Genevans excel in.


Hamel Mont Blanc

A special subscriber’s facsimile edition limited of 100 copies numbered 1 - 100 is now published available to order on a first come first served basis. I have attempted to design this facsimile edition in such a way to do justice to the original. Each ‘dessin’ is protected by a ‘tissue’ guard, all pages edges are in gilt. Casebound in cloth with gilt title block on the front cover each copy is also protected by an illustrated colour dust wrapper. [21 x 30 cms. Landscape] The original text, being in French, has been lovingly translated into English and so there is now a page in each language to accompany each view. Please note that the colours are only representative of the original colours which do not show ‘paper ageing’.

The price of the subscriber edition is £120 + post. The public edition is £35 (€45) + post. Order from Published by Tony Astill - Les Alpes Livres

Jacques Perret ‘That is the great interest of the luxurious facsimile Tony Astill presents us with today, and it should fully satisfy hundred connoisseurs who will have the privilege of counting it in their library.’

Geneve, Bonneville, Saint-Martin, St. Gervais, Le Lac de Chede, Servoz, Le Col de Voza, Le Glacier des Bossons ou Buissons, Le Prieure, Le Montanvert, Le Glacier des Bois, La Source de l'Arveron, La Grotte du Chapeau, Le Col de Balme, Voyage de Mr. De Saussure et son Fils au Col de Geant, Descente de meme, Voyage au Mont-Blanc par Mr. le Dr. Hamel.

with a foreword by Jacques Perret ‘C’est dire tout l’intérêt de cette luxueuse réimpression que Tony Astill nous donne aujourd’hui, et qui devrait pleinement satisfaire la centaine d’amateurs qui auront le privilège de la compter dans leur bibliothèque.’

The most rare of all Alpine books now published in facsimile almost 200 years after first publication in Geneva. £35 (€40) + post     CLICK to order

As reviewed in GEOGRAPHICAL Magazine June 2016

GEOGRAPHICAL Magazine June 2016 360°. Rivista del CAI, aprile 2016 Leonardo Bizzaro Hoogtelijn

LO SCARPONE CAI Italian Alpine Club

montagna e all’alpinismo, è uomo conosciuto nel mondo della montagna, anche in Italia.

Aldo Audisio, direttore del Museo Nazionale della Montagna ricorda che «quando al Museo ci sono dei dubbi su opere e personaggi del mondo britannico una mail o una telefonata a lui è sempre la migliore soluzione per risolvere il problema. Inoltre ha ampiamente collaborato con il Museo per recuperare documenti e memorabilia su Albert Smith e la sua salita al Monte Bianco del 1851, che presto verranno presentati in una grande mostra».

Oggi Astill presenta una nuova edizione dell’opera di Charton, ricavata dalla sua copia personale, una delle tre sole di cui si conosce l’esistenza. Originariamente pubblicata a Ginevra nel 1821 da Gabriel Charton (1775-1853), artista e pioniere della litografia, quest’opera è sfuggita all’attenzione degli storici e bibliofili dell’alpinismo per quasi 200 anni.

È infatti l’opera più rara della letteratura alpina e presenta alcune delle prime litografie realizzate in Svizzera. Le 18 riproduzioni di litografie colorate a mano accompagnano piacevolmente la vivida descrizione del viaggio da Ginevra a Chamonix, e rappresentano pertanto la prima guida illustrata di quel percorso e della successiva ascensione alla cima del Monte Bianco. L’ultima illustrazione e il relativo testo rispecchiano la testimonianza diretta dell’incidente mortale accaduto il 20 agosto 1820 (riferito come l’Hamel affair) quando tre guide alpine sono state travolte da una valanga e trascinate in un crepaccio. È uno dei maggiori incidenti della storia dell’alpinismo in cui Balmat, Terraz e Carrier perirono e la tragedia finì sulle prime pagine dei giornali con molti commenti.

I resoconti caratteristici di Gabriel Charton dei ghiacciai e di Chamonix offrono comunque più di quanto promesso dal loro titolo. Sono infatti descritti anche eccellenti ostelli, nei quali si può trovare tutto ciò che si può desiderare: pasti da gourmet, pulizia, servizi quasi all’altezza del lusso delle grandi città.

In questa fedele e lussuosa riproduzione del capolavoro di Charton, è stata aggiunta al testo originale francese la accurata traduzione in inglese nello stesso font del 1820, così da permetterne la lettura ad un pubblico più vasto.

Riguardo a questo libro così speciale, Tony Astill, punto di riferimento fra le librerie antiquarie inglesi specializzate in alpinismo, scrive: «è senza dubbio il più raro fra tutti i libri di alpinismo».

Souvenirs pittoresques des Glaciers de Chamouny

Es musste ja einmal kommen: hier geht es um das schönste Bergbuch aller Zeiten. In Text (zweisprachig f/e) und Bild. Dargestellt zum Beispiel der erste Bergunfall der Geschichte am Montblanc – also weniger schön. Wer sich beeilt, kann vielleicht noch eines der signierten und nummerierten Faksimile ergattern.

Les Alpes Livres Sans nous flatter d’avoir atteint au degré de perfection dont cet ouvrage est susceptible, nous espérons, du moins, qu’il sera bien accueilli des amateurs de la nature des Beaux-Arts.»

Heisst es im Hinweis eines ganz besonderen Buches. Tony Astill, englischer grand seigneur der Bergbuch-Antiquare, schreibt dazu: „It is, no doubt, the most rare of all alpine books.“ Nur eine Handvoll Exemplare gibt es von „Souvenirs pittoresques des Glaciers de Chamouny“, das der Genfer Künstler und Lithograf Gabriel Charton (1775–1853) 1821 drucken liess. Das mit 18 wunderbar kolorierten Tafeln geschmückte Werk präsentiert den Liebhabern der Natur und der schönen Künste eine Reise von Genf der Arve entlang nach Chamonix, zu den Gletschern, Grotten und Quellen dort und schliesslich auf den Mont Blanc mit Horace-Bénédict de Saussure. Auf dem Innentitel des prachtvollen Opus steht „PRIX:“ – allerdings fehlt die Preisangabe. Wahrscheinlich war dieser kostbare Reiseführer damals selbst den geneigten Lesern und Betrachtern zu teuer, und das Original, das Tony Astill gefunden hat, kostet eine fünfstellige Summe. Doch nun ist „Souvenirs pittoresques des Glaciers de Chamouny“ günstiger erhältlich: 45 Euro nur. Und erst noch zweisprachig.

Denn Tony Astill liess Chartons Meisterwerk als Faksimile nachdrucken und gleichzeitig um die englische Übersetzung erweitern, die jedoch so elegant eingebunden ist, dass man es kaum merkt. So kann man, auch wenn man in der Sprache von de Saussure nicht viel mehr als „montagne“ und „mer de glace“ versteht, die Reise mit den Hinweisen auf Besonderheiten, Sehenswürdigkeiten und Gipfel nachvollziehen. Und für das Betrachten der 18 lithografierten Ansichten braucht man ohnehin höchstens ein Ah! oder Oh!, bei der letzten Tafel auch ein Oh je!, weil man dort Zeuge eine Bergunfalls am Mont Blanc wird. Es ist die sogenannte „Affäre Hamel“, bei der am 20. August 1820 drei Bergführer von einem Schneebrett in eine Gletscherspalte gespült werden – der erste grosse Unfall in der Geschichte des Alpinismus.

Gabriel Chartons malerische Erinnerungen an die Gletscher von Chamonix sind also mehr, als der Titel verspricht. Die ersten 100 Exemplare der Neuausgabe sind nummeriert und vom neuen Herausgeber signiert. Mein Exemplar trägt die Nr. 20. Ich fühle mich flattiert.

Gabriel Charton: Souvenirs pittoresques des Glaciers de Chamouny, ornés de dix-huit dessins coloriés. Facsimile Edition by Tony Astill, Les Alpes Livres 2015. Text auf Französisch und neu auch auf Englisch. £ 35, € 45.


SAC ‘Die Alpen’  Schweizer Alpen Club, Club Alpin Suisse

Souvenirs pittoresques des Glaciers de Chamouny

Ornés de dix-huit dessins coloriés

Von Daniel Anker

Review published page 62 in the Swiss Alpine Club SAC Jahrbuch

LES ALPES French Review

DIE ALPEN  German Review

sfogliare la rivista LE ALPI  Italian Review

In Geneva copies are for sale at


Livres neufs et anciens depuis 1839

Bourg-de-Four 32

CH-1204 Genève

T 022 310 36 70

F 022 310 05 28




C’est une curiosité que cette

réédition d’un livre paru il y a

200 ans à Genève. Proposés

en fac-similé, ces Souvenirs

pittoresques constituent l’un

des premiers guides de

voyage dans le Mont-Blanc.

C’est aussi l’un des premiers

ouvrages à intégrer la

lithographie en Suisse,

illustrant richement les propos

de Charton. Commande à

Souvenirs pittoresques des

glaciers de Chamouny, Gabriel

Charton, réédité par Tony Astill, Les Alpes Livres, 45 €

Here can be found an extremely interesting and personal description by a recent visitor

Section Genevoise Bulletin Oct. 2016

Gabriel Charton Alpine Journal Review Alpine Journal 2016