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Rare Books

Firestone Library
One Washington Road
Princeton, NJ 08540
609-258-3184
Acting Associate University Librarian for Rare Books and Special Collections
609-258-3165

In addition to the Beauharnais Archives (30,000 MSS), there are also belonging to the Napoleonana in the Library the 407 volumes once in the library of one of the Imperial residences of Napoleon and his second wife, Marie-Louise of Austria. When Napoleon went into exile, many of the Imperial household effects, including books, became the property of Marie-Louise. Thus certain books were handed down through the Hapsburg family in Austria until they were sold in the 1930's. The Princeton collection was acquired by Andre de Coppet, Class of 1915, from the Berlin bookseller, Martin Breslauer, and was presented by de Coppet to the Library. Other books from the same source are among the Napoleonic souvenirs in the Château de Malmaison, near Paris.

Although revealing little about Napoleon or Marie-Louise, these books provide fine examples of the craftsmanship of French printers and bookbinders in the early years of the 19th century and supply some insight into the current fashions in reading at that time.

"All are in the French language. Translations from English are significantly numerous, for the Continental Blockade did not exclude English ideas; our volumes include sets of Fielding, Smollett, Richardson, Maria Edgeworth and Fanny Burney. There are a curious French "adaptation" of Shakespeare (refined to suit le bon goût), a number of books of travel, and the medical memoirs of Larrey, surgeon general of the Napoleonic armies. Also present is a copy of the earliest extant edition, namely the second (1814), of Mme. de Stael's De l'Allemagne, the first (1810) having been totally destroyed by Napoleon's express order. Apparently Marie-Louise's librarian bought the forbidden book immediately after the dictator's fall." -- R. R. Palmer in the Princeton University Library Chronicle article cited below.

Two catalogues relevant to this collection are: 1) Die Bibliothek Napoleons I und der kaiserin Marie Luise; ausstellung einer leihgabe veranstaltet vom Verein der freunde der Staatsbibliothek. Berlin, [Breslauer] 1931. Call number: (Ex) 3229.616.066 [full text] and [Catalogue of books in the Marie Louise collection, Princeton University Library.] Berlin: Breslauer, 1934. Call number: (Ex) 3229.616.066.02q [full text]
The entire collection is classed under the call number[(Ex) 3229.616. ---- .
For further details see the Princeton University Library Chronicle III, 2 (February, 1942) pp. 50-51 [full text] . Also see: W.S. Hastings "Napoleon's Library at Princeton" in the Princeton Alumni Weekly (28 September 1934), p. 25.

Under Napoleon, France occupied Egypt during 1799-1801. The chief permanent monument of the occupation is the Description de l'Egypte published in Paris from 1809-1822 under the direction of E.-F. Jomard. This multi-volume work with truly monumental plates on Egyptian antiquities is owned by the Library [(Ex) 1821.358e [details] ]. For a complete collation and analysis of the Description see André Monglond, La France révolutionnaire et impériale (Paris, 1957) Tome 8 (Années 1809-1810) columns 268-343. [(DR) Z2171.M74 vol. 8.] A photocopied offprint of this section is shelved at (ExB) Z2171.M74 vol. 8 col. 268+. Also shelved with this offprint is another useful inventory of the plates in the Description. This is the 76 page Bibliographical Account and Collation of La Description de l'Egypte presented to the Library of the London Institution by Sir Thomas Baring, Baronet, President: with a list of the other donations made to that establishment from April 1837 to April 1838. (London, 1838). Princeton photocopy of this listing was made from the copy at the American Philosophical Society, Philadelphia. See the Library online catalogue record of this book, which has a digital link to the imaged photocopy.

Also see the following book with important commentary by Prof. Gillispie. Numerous plates from the Library's copy of the Description are reproduced in this edited facsimile. Monuments of Egypt : the Napoleonic edition : the complete archaeological plates from La Description de l'Egypte / edited with introduction and notes by Charles Coulston Gillispie ... and Michel Dewachter ... (Princeton, N.J.: Princeton Architectural Press, c1987) [(Ex) DT60 .M59 1987q].

Also see Prof. Gillispie's article "The Scientific Importance of Napoleon's Egyptian Campaign" in the September 1994 issue of Scientific American.

In 1994, the American Field Service (New York) transferred to Princeton its collection of about 300 books relating to Napoleon. This collection was given to AFS by Harry W. Frantz (SSU 10) and by Richard and Katherine Parkhurst. A complete listing of the collection is in the Collections File under the heading "Napoleon."