La dernière passion de Napoléon. La bibliothèque de Sainte-Hélène [Napoleon’s last Passion: the St Helena Library]

Author(s) : JOURQUIN Jacques
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Book in French

In his book La dernière passion de Napoléon [Napoleon’s passion for books], Jacques Jourquin presents us with the details of a long investigation aimed at reconstituting the contents of the library at Longwood House during Napoleon’s exile on the island of St Helena. Although this task was previously considered impossible (only 250 titles of the 3,583 books that made up the St Helena library have been located today), the author has nevertheless succeeded thanks to a meticulous comparison of the various archives and catalogues that have been preserved. The discovery of the unpublished archives of Louis-Étienne Saint-Denis, known as Mameluk Ali, Napoleon’s “valet de chambre” and manager of the library on St Helena, provided the author with the missing piece of the puzzle. The catalogue drawn up by Jacques Jourquin, which is of both historical and bibliographical interest, is undoubtedly the central and major contribution of this work.

Far from limiting himself to the restitution of the General catalogue of the library during Napoleon’s exile, the author tells us, throughout the pages, the living history of this collection by tracing the chronology of its constitution, where the books came from, and the people who contributed to it, not to mention its chaotic dispersal after the Emperor’s death. This is a book not to be missed for anyone who shares the same passion as Napoleon for books! (Amélie Marineau-Pelletier)

La dernière passion de Napoléon. La bibliothèque de Sainte-Hélène [Napoleon’s last Passion: the St Helena Library]
© Passés Composés, 2021

Publisher’s presentation:

Napoleon was a librarian and he knew it. This is the surprising conclusion of this study, the very first of its kind, based on archival documents and the Saint-Denis papers, his “book keeper”, unknown for two hundred years. On St Helena, Napoleon was not only a prisoner in conflict with his jailers, he was also a man of action. In addition to dictating his memoirs, he had a little-known and all-consuming passion: his library. He ended up investing himself totally in it, as in the only area where he could regain his lost power. Books were now the only battlefields on which he could make his mark. The library is another facet of the imprisoned Napoleon that has been largely ignored until now. Thanks to this story, it is indeed a portrait of Napoleon’s last years that Jacques Jourquin draws here, that of a man who rediscovers one of his oldest passions, on which he concentrates his last forces, his last hopes. This book, drawn from the unpublished archives, ignored for two hundred years, of Saint-Denis, the Emperor’s “book keeper”, considerably renews our knowledge of the exile on St Helena.

The author, Jacques Jourquin, vice-president of the Institut Napoléon, is a former president of Éditions Tallandier, former director of the Revue du Souvenir napoléonien and Historia. He is the author of numerous studies on the civilian and military personnel of the Empire, and has been working for forty years on the papers of Louis-Étienne Saint-Denis, known as the “mameluk Ali”, about which he has published several unpublished volumes.


This work is part of the label “2021 Année Napoléon”.
Discover more publications bearing this label.

Year of publication :
Place and publisher :
Paris, Passés Composés
Number of pages :
336 p.
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