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Napoleon's Personally Owned Book from St. Helena, Stamped & Inscribed by Librarian Mameluke Ali, Ex-Nicholson Napoleon Collection

A French language book from the personal library of French Emperor Napoleon Bonaparte (1769-1821), bearing the stamp and handwriting of Mameluke Ali, the librarian of Longwood House on St. Helena. Provenance is included and further discussed below. From the Nicholson Napoleon Collection.

The book is Volume II of Charles-Guillaume Étienne's "Lettres Sur Paris, Ou Correspondance pour Servir À L'Histoire de L'Établissement du Gouvernement Représentatif en France" (Paris: Delaunay, Libraire, Palais-Royal, 1820). (The translated title is "Letters on Paris, Or Correspondence Serving as History of the Establishment of Representative Government in France.") Original red leather boards with gilt embossed spine. All the pages have been cut. Scattered foxing within the inner pages. Wear to the covers including a few isolated stains and rubbing at the corners, else very good. 550pp. 5.5" x 8.5" x 1.25."

On the title page, Napoleon's librarian-in-exile Mameluke Ali has written "l'Emp. Napoleon" above a round hand-stamp in brown ink signaling that the book was in Napoleon's library at Longwood House on St. Helena. An Ex Libris Calvin Bullock label is affixed to the front pastedown endpaper, and another label on the back loose endpaper records the purchase date as November 13, 1936. An early auction label is found in the upper left corner of the front pastedown endpaper. Translated, it reads: "A work having belonged to Napoleon bearing above the title the stamp of the Library of the Emperor at St. Helena, and above the half-title, in ink, in the hand of his faithful secretary Ali Saint-Denis…The stamp is very clear, which is rare."

The book's subject--the history of democratic government in France, interpreted through modern letters--was ironic since Napoleon had crowned himself Emperor in 1804, and was considered so dangerous a demagogue that he was banished to the South Atlantic. Interestingly, Napoleon does not appear in the book's index, showing the extent to which he had moved outside the orbit of current events. Waterloo, however, is mentioned on page 432.

Mameluke Ali was born Louis-Étienne Saint-Denis (1788-1856) to a blue-collar Parisian family. He gradually worked his way up through the ranks of Napoleon's household, following the Emperor into both exiles, and finally becoming First Mameluke, copyist, and librarian on St. Helena. Saint-Denis's alternate name of "Mameluke Ali" derived from the Mamelukes of the Imperial Guard, a calvary squadron. Ali published his "Souvenirs" in 1826.

Napoleon took 600 books to St. Helena, according to Jacques Jourquin of the Institut Napoléon. Of these, 400 were willed to Napoleon's son, Napoleon II (1811-1832), the King of Rome, though these were dispersed among Napoleon's larger family and faithful staff and servants. Upon his death in 1821, there were approximately 3,500 books in Napoleon's library.


This lot is accompanied by:

1. An invoice dated May 22, 2003 from The Wicker Porch, Inc., affiliated with the Marion Antique Shop (Marion, Massachusetts.) The item is referred to there as a "Rare old book from Napoleon's library."

2. A letter dated May 23, 2003 discussing the book's provenance. It was purchased from Henry Cole, grandson of collector Calvin Bullock.

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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