About The Collection

The McGill University Napoleon Collection is divided into the following sections:

Prints in the Collection

This is one of the most important collections of Napoleonic prints in North America. It is composed of two parts:

Loose Prints

There are records for 2178 loose prints in the database. 2117 date from the nineteenth century, 55 from the eighteenth century, and 6 from the twentieth century. 1002 prints are “octavos”, 895 are “quartos”, and 281 are large-format. There are just over 100 Epinal prints and 250 caricatures.

Other representations include battle scenes, portraits of Napoleon, his family, and notable contemporaries, political events such as the Coronation or signing of peace treaties, and monuments. A number of prints come from the collections of Prince Murat, Prince Eugène, and Prince Bezborodko.

Prints in Books

There are 8885 prints in monographs in the database. These original prints date from before 1871. Using this criteria, the prints in some 500 monographs have been described. Many monographs have only a few images in them, which serve as illustrations to the text; others, such as Arnault’s Vie politique et militaire de Napoléon of 1822-26, or Isabey’s Le Sacre de Napoléon of 1815, are bound collections of prints. There are also a number of extra-illustrated volumes, most notably John Ashton’s English Caricature and Satire on Napoleon I, which contains 214 original prints inserted to illustrate the text, from the collection of Sir Frederick Richmond.

Monographs in the Collection

The collection contains some 2362 monographs, records for which are available on the website. The particular strength of the collection is in the extent of earlier material held. In addition to the usual accounts of the battles of the Napoleonic wars and personal narratives, the collection includes a wide variety of other material. For example, there are four contemporary editions of the Code Civil in French, one in Italian, three in German and one in Polish (with Latin and French), as well as a run of the Bulletins des Lois (1794-1815). Moreover, there is material detailing etiquette at the Imperial Court, there are holdings of poetry, drama and juvenile fiction including a copy of Rosario, or, The Mysterious Sorceress: A Romantic Tale ascribed to Napoleon Bonaparte himself. Elba, the Hundred Days and St. Helena are all covered in depth. There are also holdings of satiric and other anti-Napoleonic material. Of the pre-1830 titles, 704 have a full description, including a collation statement and description of contents. In addition, 287 have a detailed description of contents. Provenance information has been found for 1035 monographs; this includes bookplates, labels, signatures and annotations. Some 280 different bookplates and labels have been identified and 692 persons or institutions indexed.

Serials in the Collection

There are a number of German, French and English serials in the collection including:

Records for these appear in the database.

Other relevant serials are to be found in the general collection of the Rare Books and Special Collections Division including The Naval Chronicle (London: 1799-1818). Records for this material are not yet in the Napoleon database.

Printed Ephemera in the Collection

The collection contains some 410 pieces of printed ephemera of which 260 are contemporary to Napoleon.

The strength of this collection is the 119 extracts from the journal Moniteur from January 1814 to June 1815. There are also other extracts from later journals: from the Eclectic Review and Eclectic Magazine for Foreign Literature in the 1870s to Paris Match and Nature in the 1950s. The subjects of these extracts vary from the different battles to the women in Napoleon’s life. These extracts also include extracts from books and encyclopaedias. As well, 47 newspaper clippings are part of the collection, mainly from the Illustrated London News in the 1850s but also earlier ones such as the clipping of the London Times of June 22, 1815.

The printed ephemera also contain official documents from Napoleonic times. Many items cover the period of the Consulate from 1799 to 1804 including a “Proclamation de la République française” Cairo, 1800, in French and Arabic while other documents in French and Italian deal with the Battle of Austerlitz in December 1805. Elba, the Hundred Days and the Second Abdication are also well covered with 28 items dated from February 1815 to July 1815. There are 11 military documents including military discharges at the end 1790s and regulations for the allied armies in French and German in 1813.

Other interesting material includes 32 English patriotic broadsides from 1803 and a broadside from the "Consistoire Central des Israélites," dated 1809 providing a form of prayer for the Emperor and the Imperial Family.

Records for this material are not yet in the Napoleon database.

Maps in the Collection

There are 1567 maps in the database, most of which are held in just over two hundred monographs. Most of these monographs contain but a few maps, which serve as illustration or explanation to accompany the text. Others titles, such as Jomini’s Vie politique et militaire de Napoléon of 1827, are bound collections of maps.

Eighteen maps are loose prints (4 “octavos”, 10 “quartos”, and 4 “folios”).

Additional maps relevant to the Napoleon Collection will be found in the Rare Books and Special Collections Division’s Map Collection. Records for this material are not yet in the Napoleon database.

Manuscripts in the Collection

Several small manuscript collections and single documents are part of the Napoleon Collection. Of particular note is "Memoirs and Drawings of Napoleon while at St. Helena, by Frederick Allison, his orderly from 1815-1821" with notes by J. Holland Rose, 1934.

There is a small body of diplomatic letters and documents (ca. 1810-1815) including secretarial copies of letters between France and Russia dealing primarily with the proposed armistice at Pleiswitz.

Other material includes a significant number of documents from the Marquis de Caulaincourt including a copy of his "memoir" concerning the period after the Battle of Waterloo.

As well, there is material relating to the Duke of Wellington, Prince Metternich and Louis XVIII. The Duke of Wellington collection includes a number of letters and documents related to the Napoleonic wars.

Finally, there is a manuscript copy of "Les exploits guerriers de la Grande Bretagne et ses Alliés depuis l'année 1800 jusqu'à 1814" and some twenty-five assorted autograph documents including a bound volume "Napoleon [:] A Collection of Autographs."

Records for this material are not yet in the Napoleon database.

Realia in the Collection

Some 244 objects are included among the Realia. There are 57 postcards and 164 images taken from magazines. Among the other objects are statuettes, an ivory bas-relief, medals, coins, plaster casts for medals, and two large framed needlepoints showing Longwood House and Napoleon’s Tomb on Saint Helena by Kate Armour Reed (1856-1936), the wife of Hayter Reed who had been Canadian Indian Commissioner. There is also a set of tarot cards with a picture of the Emperor on the back, and a children’s toy where the portrait of Napoleon gets transformed into that of his son.

Records for this material are not yet in the Napoleon database.

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