The General Correspondence of Napoleon Bonaparte Volume 6: project update

Author(s) : HOUDECEK François
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Project update

It has only been a few months since volume five came out, in November 2008, but already we have volume six ready to hit the shops.
Everyone involved in the project is working as hard as ever. Whilst new additions have been harder to come by this year, especially compared to the wonderful discoveries of 2008, we have nevertheless continued to slave away, digging out every possible letter signed by Napoleon that we can find. We are in constant contact with archive centres in France and abroad that are likely or potential recipients of letters from Napoleon.
In this tireless search, we find ourselves time and again looking to Russian collections, where, despite numerous approaches, we still struggle to obtain copies of the many letters from the Emperor that we know to be kept in the different archive centres. Mme Mireille Musso, ambassador to Belarus, has worked tirelessly on our behalf to keep us going forward in this difficult process. Her efforts, through her opposite number acting as an intermediary in Moscow, have been indispensible and I should like to take the opportunity afforded me by this short recapitulation to once again thank her for her valuable help.
Auction houses also continue to play an important role in our project. One auction in particular, from 13 February 2009, threw up about ten previously unpublished letters to General Lespinasse which date from the First Italian Campaign, several handwritten notes, including one to Josephine, and a number of other, equally intriguing letters. All these documents, having up to that point remained hidden away in a private collection somewhere, have now been added to our database which at this current time includes some 36,300 files.
The enthusiasm of our volunteers shows no sign of abating, and 148 Boulevard Haussmann, home to the Fondation Napoléon, is often full to bursting point. Their endless work in enriching and enlarging the database gives us a very precise and detailed understanding of each letter, whilst their work in comparing the various sources helps us to authenticate each missive. Compared to the collections released during the Second Empire, more than 57 % of what is in our database is unpublished, whilst 13,300 letters from our collection have never been published at all. Moreover, it is highly likely that 1811,(1) the year with which we are currently concerned, will push our statistics beyond those already mentioned. This can be explained by the fact that, at the time of the first publication, the Prince Napoleon's commission took merely a selection of the letters from Napoleon to his War Minister. As preparation for the 1812 campaign intensified, Napoleon inundated Clarke with letters of instruction concerning every possible detail, letters that our volunteers have expertly sorted and which will appear in their integrity in volume eleven. 
Volume six may have just been published, but our editors (Michel Kerautret, Gabriel Madec, Patrice Gueniffey and Annie Jourdan, to name but a few) are ploughing ahead in their work for the next few volumes: number seven is well-advanced, the corpus for volume eight is assembled and number nine is currently being drawn up.
So until the time…
François Houdecek

One or two statistics

Correspondence visitors who have participated since the beginning: 258
Correspondence visitors to the Fondation: 47
Correspondence visitors trained in the digital processing of letters: 149
-2004: 4,188 working hours (89.1 per week)
-2005: 7,996 working hours (170,1 per week)
-2006: 7,660 working hours (162,9 per week)
-2007: 7,776 working hours (165,4 per week)
-2008: 6,948 working hours (147 per week)

French archives and institutions that provided letters: 101
Foreign archives and institutions that provided letters: 124
Countries contacted: 40
Countries that provided letters: 21
Letters received from abroad: 3,200
Auction catalogues containing letters from Napoleon that were consulted: 756
Letters found in auction catalogues: 3,968
Collectors who have provided letters: 87
Letters from collectors and dealers: 6,667
Monographs containing letters from Napoleon inventoried: 349
Number of digitised letter files: 28,100
Reviews that published letters from Napoleon: 52
Letters (estimated): more than 36,500
Files in the database: 36,334
Oldest letter: 5 July, 1784, to Fesch
Most recent letter: 25 April, 1821, to La Bouillerie
Recipients: more than 2,000
Letters unpublished in the Correspondance during the Second Empire: 57.6 % (20,620)
Letters not found in inventoried monographs: 36.6 % (13,301)
Letters previously unpublished: 1 % (357)
Work based on the sent version: 35.6 % (12,955)
(Tr. & ed. H.D.W.)


For further information, or if you would like to be involved in the project, please contact François Houdecek, Project manager.
Fondation Napoléon
148 boulevard Haussmann
75008 Paris
Tel.: +33 (0)1 56 43 46 00
Fax.: +33 (0)1 56 43 46 01


(1) We would once again like to thank a number of important institutions for their assistance in the project - the Archives nationales, the Service Historique de la Défense, the Ministère des Affaires étrangères - without whom this publication would not have been possible.
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