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Napoleonic pages: Histoire de l'Empereur Napoléon (History of the Emperor Napoleon), by Laurent de l'Ardèche, illustrated by Horace Vernet (Paris: J.-J. Dubochet, 1839)

(Article by LHEUREUX-PRÉVOT Chantal )

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1839: the statue of Napoleon once again stood on top of the Vendôme Column, the Arc de Triomphe was finished, the songs of Béranger recounting the fall of the eagla were hummed on streets corners, one after the other petitions were sent to the Chambre des députés asking for the return of the Emperor's human remains… Publishers could now, without fear of disapproval, offer their readers fine, richly illustrated books on the life and works of the "prodigious man".
The publishers Dubochet, active from 1830 to 1848, called upon the renowned draughtsmen of the period for their illustrations: thus, Grandville drew for the Fables de Florian, and Horace Vernet (1789-1863), the famous painter and lithographer of the Napoleonic epic, was quite naturally requested to work on the "Histoire de l'Empereur Napoléon".
The author, Paul-Mathieu Laurent (known as l'Ardèche, from the department of his birth) was a multi-talented figure, taking periods as lawyer, historian, and politician, but he ended his career as custodian of the Bibliothèque de l'Arsenal.
The books was a success and was republished both in 1840 and in 1849, then by Dubochet's successors, Lechevalier and Paulin. For copyright reasons, the author and the two latest publishers sued (unsuccessfully) the 1870 imprint by Plon. The German translation was published nine times in the 19th century.
The book is similar to the edition of Las Cases Mémorial de Sainte-Hélène published by Ernest Bourdin in 1842, illustrated by Charlet. There is the same juxtaposition of text and vignettes, the same multiplicity of engravings and the same imaginative variation in illuminated capitals and 'nostalgic' motifs: the vigil around the figurine of Napoleon, arms on the ground and the hat, alone, eternal.
Title: Histoire de l'Empereur Napoléon
Publisher and publication date: Paris, J.-J. Dubochet, 1839
Physical description: 799 p., ill., in-8° (17 x 26 cm)
Available at the Bibliothèque M. Lapeyre, Fondation Napoléon : N B 0 laure


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