Culture: Paris: 1809–1829
Medium: Illustrated books
Dimensions: 9 vols. in 24; 16 1/2 x 43 3/4 in. (42 x 111 cm)
Credit Line: Presented by John Taylor Johnston
Accession Number: 531 D451 Q
In an effort to curtail England's influence in the East, Napoleon Bonaparte embarked on a secret mission to invade Egypt in 1798. In addition to his military goals, Napoleon used the campaign to mount the first large-scale scientific expedition related to the study of both ancient and modern Egypt. He intended to document antiquities, ethnography, architecture, and natural history, taking with him 150 artists, scientists, architects, and printers who compiled a monumental record of the campaign. In the end, Napoleon's forces were defeated. In 1801, in return for transport home, the French agreed to relinquish many of their collected antiquities, including the Rosetta Stone, but not their personal notes and sketchbooks. Once home, the minister of the interior convened the community of Egyptian scholars to a meeting to select eight members to form a committee to publish the findings of the Egyptian expedition. The result, "Le Description de l'Egypte," was begun in 1803 and took more than twenty years to produce. Including 844 large engraved plates, many in color, it is one of the greatest achievements of French publishing.
Illustrated: paintings from the mummy cases, Thebes