Publication of the Correspondance générale of Napoleon I: October 2004 : 3rd progress report on this Fondation Napoléon project

Author(s) : BARTHET Emilie
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On 20 October, 2004, the first volume of the Correspondance générale of Napoleon I was published, the beginning of an adventure which will see the publication of 12 volumes and 33,000 letters

The publication of the first volume: « Les Apprentissages » 1784-1797

The publication on 20 October 2004 of the first volume of the Correspondance générale of Napoleon I is the project's foundation stone, laid after three year of work.
The 1,464 pages of this volume and its 2,283 letters dating from 1784 to 1797, shed a completely new light on Napoleon's «apprenticeship». Letters dated earlier than 1793 show a young officer close to his family, concerned with «Bonaparte clan affairs».

Designed as a work tool, this volume also contains a map showing the first Italian campaigns and three indices. The first index is of all the people referred to in the letters, and each has a biographical note. The second is an index of institutions, bodies and authorities to which letters were addressed. The third is one of places where the letters were written. Finally there is a detailled timeline for the years 1769 to 1797 which compares the life of Napoleon Bonaparte with the events of his time.
In addition there are four fac-similes of letters, showing Napoleon's handwriting and several different types of headed notepaper. (1)

Work in progress…

This publication however is by no means the end of the story. The retrieval of letters from French institutions and elsewhere, is gradually nearing an end.

The bibliographical part of the project is well advanced and will soon be the object of a publication.

Finally, a significant study of sale catalogues began a few months ago, using the Fonds ABXXXVIII of the Archives nationales. Work on this archive will make it possible to publish either the existence or sometimes even the texts of the letters previously unpublished. This study can be seen in the chapter entitled « Lettres sans texte » du premier volume. Arranged in order by date, name of addressee and place of writing, the hundred or so letters in this part complete the volume.

Volunteers to the fore

The publication of volume one has led to more volunteers joining the project. We are particularly grateful and are pleased to welcome them to the project. They bring the total of collaborators to 150.
Volunteers are present at the Fondation every day of the week and their tasks involve analysis of the letters, comparison with previously published versions, and the preparation of datafiles for each letter. The database currently holds 11,000 letter datafiles out of a predicted 33,000.
Using the correspondance managament database, we know that currently:
• 40 % of the letters we have processed have not been published before in the works of reference
• 10 % of the letters of Napoleon I published by us taken from the originals have variants with respect to those published by Napoleon III
• 2% of the letters are completely unknown
• 47% of the letters published in our edition are taken from the sent letter (not the minute), of which 2% are from autographs.

A five year plan…

The commentary is currently our primary concern. The chief editors for the individual volumes, in collaboration with a group of annotators, write explanatory notes where necessary.

Volume two, currently almost in press, is under the direction of Thierry Lentz and Colonel Gabriel Madec. It is planned that it will come out in May 2005.
The chronological divisions of the following 11 volumes and their proposed publication dates is as follows:
• volume 2, 1798-1799, to come out in May 2005
• volume 3, 1800-1802, to come out in October 2005
• volume 4, 1803-August 1805, to come out in October 2005
• volume 5, September 1805-1806, to come out in April 2006
• volume 6, 1807, to come out in April 2006
• volume 7, 1808, to come out in October 2006
• volume 8, 1809, to come out in October 2006
• volume 9, 1810-mid 1811, to come out in April 2007
• volume 10, mid 1811-1812, to come out in April 2007
• volume 11, January-October 1813, to come out in October 2008
• volume 12, November 1813 – 1821, to come out in October 2008

A volume of supplementary letters for the whole period 1784-1821 will be published in April  2009. (2)
For further information, contact Emilie Barthet.


(1) On sale for 50 €, this volume will be widely distributed; there is no subscription.
(2) This information is simply indicative and may be altered by the Fondation Napoléon.
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