Complete works of Monsieur Arnault (3 volumes bearing Napoleon’s great coat of arms, published in The Hague by J.-B. Wallezz)

Artist(s) : ARNAULT Antoine-Vincent
Share it
Complete works of Monsieur Arnault (3 volumes bearing Napoleon’s great coat of arms, published in The Hague by J.-B. Wallezz)
© Fondation Napoléon

A handwritten note on the first page of volume one reads as follows: “This copy once formed part of Napoleon's library in exile; I took it from my own library to send it to him when Doctor Antommarchi was preparing to set out for St Helena; it was returned to me by the Count de Montholon, to whom it had been given after the death of the great man. Arnault
From his youth up to his death, Napoleon was a great reader, although he was not a bibliophile in the technical sense. Books for him were tools and not friends. He had more than 60,000 works in the libraries in his palaces (Tuileries, Fontainebleau, etc.) and his library was always set close to his study. He took with him to St Helena slightly fewer than 600 volumes, although for various reasons, there were more than 3500 there in 1821.

The writer Arnault (1766-1834), a Bonaparte relation, had been asked to put together a library for the Egyptian expedition. According to the hand-written note on the flyleaf of the first volume here, he had his works transported to St Helena at the moment when Doctor Antommarchi was heading there in 1819, but without saying that they were entrusted to the doctor. We know however from Mameluck Ali, librarian, (unpublished documents), that more than 100 books were conveyed by the abbé Buonavita who accompanied Antommarchi.

The stamp and the inscription 'l'Empereur Napoléon' in Ali's hand on the title page are typical of Longwood library. The binding with a coat of arms however is unusual. Since given the date of publication, these cannot be volumes previously given to Arnault by the Emperor, we are forced to infer that the binding (by Simier ? to judge from the decoration) was done at a later date at the request of the author/donor. This inference is supported by the presence of the embossed title low down on the spine “Bibliothèque de S. Hélène” (Library of St Helena), which obviously did not exist at Longwood, but which can be seen either on the spine or on the front board of books brought back from Longwood whose provenance the owners wished to solemnise.
As for the indication, again by Arnault, that the book had been “returned” to him by Montholon, it is known that Napoleon, who cared little for the value of his books, only gave specific instructions concerning about 400 of the volumes, amongst which were those most used by him and which the emperor had asked Ali to give to the Roi de Rome. Since this could not be done, these books were later handed over to the Bonaparte family. As for the rest, a certain number were divided up amongst those who had accompanied Napoleon in exile.
Jacques Jourquin (tr. P.H.), Vice-president of the Institut Napoléon, director of the Revue du Souvenir napoléonien
February 2005

Date :
vol. I: 25 oct. 1817, vol. II: 15 feb. 1818, vol. III: 1 June, 1818
Technique :
morocco binding
Dimensions :
H = 25 m, L = 16.2 m
Place held :
Paris, Fondation Napoléon, donation Martial Lapeyre
Photo credit :
© Fondation Napoléon
Share it