University Archives


Marie Louise, Napoleon's 2nd Wife, Personally Owned Copy of "Biography of Contemporaries, by Napoleon," Ex-Nicholson Napoleon Collection

A French language book from the personal library of French Empress Marie Louise (1791-1847), the second wife of Napoleon Bonaparte (1769-1821). Provenance is included and further discussed below. From the Nicholson Napoleon Collection.

The book is entitled "Biographie des Contemporains, Par Napoléon" (Paris: Chez Ponthieu, Libraire, Palais-Royal, 1824). [The translated title is "Biography of Contemporaries, by Napoleon (or, in Napoleon's Words)"]. Original red leather boards with gilt embossed spine, and Marie Louise's gilt crowned "ML" cypher appearing on the covers. An Ex Libris "E Mariae Ludovicae / Bibliotheca Napoleonica" label is affixed to the front pastedown endpaper (this is Marie Louise's name in Latin, along with "Napoleonica Library.") An Ex Libris Calvin Bullock label is also affixed to the same page, while another label on the back loose endpaper records Bullock's purchase date as December 7, 1933. All the pages have been cut. Minor to moderate foxing found within the inner pages. Minor expected wear to the covers including rubbing at the corners, else near fine. 363pp. 5.5" x 9" x .875."

According to the book's editor, Napoleon was a natural judge of character despite numerous shortcomings. Who better to evaluate his peers than Napoleon himself? Napoleon's statements were collected through correspondence, or through the reminiscences of his intimates.

The foreword in part: "Of all the superior men hatched out of the French Revolution, there were none so able to judge men than the emperor Napoleon, when passion did not blind him, or his biases did not displace the natural precision of his mind. To welcome and reunite in a single volume all the judgments that he pronounced on his contemporaries, during his exile, when his passions had to be far from him, and when biases had been erased by time and distance, was thus a work that our century and posterity awaited; because nothing that Napoleon said can be indifferent…"

The biography contains entries for Napoleon's mother and siblings (p. 52-63); first wife Josephine Beauharnais (p. 20-23); and even Marie Louise herself (p. 213-214), in which she is explicitly contrasted with her predecessor, the artful and seductive Josephine. Also included are portraits of Napoleon's officers, administrators, servants, captors, and enemies, as well as European leaders, kings, and queens. The volume is a veritable who's who of the late Napoleonic era.


The lot is accompanied by:

1. An invoice dated March 11, 2006 showing that this volume was purchased on eBay.

This item comes with a Certificate from John Reznikoff, a premier authenticator for both major 3rd party authentication services, PSA and JSA (James Spence Authentications), as well as numerous auction houses.


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