Description de l'Egypte
Description de l'Egypte was published in Paris soon after Napoleon's fabled and ultimately ill-fated 1798 expedition to Egypt. Comprising 23 volumes, this work sparked modern interest in ancient Egypt.
In May 1798, Napoleon Bonaparte left France for Egypt with a military force of more than 34,000 men. Accompanying this expedition were 167 savants(scholars and scientists) headed by Baron Dominique Vivant Denon. This alliance of war with science was an historical first.
During a trip to Upper Egypt later that year, Denon made a series of hasty sketches of the region’s monumental ruins. Napoleon recognised their importance and commissioned the savants to accurately measure and draw these monuments. This work formed the basis of the Description de l'Egypte.
The fate of Napoleon’s army was tragic – few of the 34,000 made it back. Its scientific legacy was far more distinguished. Description de l'Egypte appeared over almost 20 years in installments, beginning in 1809. Soon after, the Rosetta Stone, unearthed by Napoleon’s army in 1799, was deciphered, and the age of archeology was born. This age would revolutionise our understanding of the origin of humans and, indirectly, of the universe.
Description de l'Egypte includes 900 plates bound in 11 volumes, nine volumes of text and three volumes of grand format. Measuring 107cm x 71cm, these volumes are the tallest books in the Library.