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Napoleon’s Traveling Library

14 October 2017

From the Sacramento Daily Union, Volume 53, Number 90, 6 June 1885:

Many of Napoleon’s biographers have incidentally mentioned that he […] used to carry about a certain number of favorite books wherever he went, whether traveling or camping; but it is not generally known that he made several plans for the construction of portable libraries which were to form part of his baggage.

Some interesting information upon this head is given us by M. Louis Barbier, who for many years had the care of the Louvre Library, and who bases his information upon sonic memoirs left by his father, who was librarian to Napoleon himself.

For a long time Napoleon used to carry about the books he required in several boxes holding about sixty volumes each.

These volumes, which were either octavo or duodecimo, stood upon shelves inside the boxes, which were supplied by the well-known cabinetmaker, Jacob. They were made of mahogany at first, but as it was found that this was not strong enough for the knocking about they had to sustain, M. Barbier bad them made of oak and covered with leather.

The inside was lined with green leather or velvet, and the books were bound in morocco. There was a catalogue for each case, with a corresponding number upon every volume, so that there was never a moment’s delay in picking out any book that was wanted. As soon as the Emperor had selected his headquarters during a campaign these cases were placed in the room which was intended to be his study, together with the portfolios containing his letters and maps.

Link to the rest at the California Digital Newspaper Collection and thanks to Austin Kleon for the tip.

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Here are some traveling libraries:
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Libraries

5 Comments to “Napoleon’s Traveling Library”

  1. Why no picture of a Kindle?

  2. My grandmother has one of these (not so large or expensive as Napoleon’s!) when I was a kid that she inherited.

    I remembered wanting one for my comic books….. what can I say I was dreamer with small unsophisticated dreams.

  3. Some interesting information upon this head is given us by M. Louis Barbier, who for many years had the care of the Louvre Library, and who bases his information upon sonic memoirs left by his father, who was librarian to Napoleon himself.

    Does he mean his father told him stories about Napoleon?

    • Actually, his father left him a hedgehog, and the hedgehog told him the stories.

      (Yes, I know, if you look at the newspaper clipping instead of the crappy OCR job, you’ll see it actually says ‘some memoirs’. I hate it when reality spoils my fun.)

  4. I really need to build one of those!

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