Napoleon and his General Staff in Egypt (1867) - Jean Léon Gerôme (1824-1904)

Napoleon and his General Staff in Egypt (1867) – Jean Léon Gérôme (1824-1904)

Description de L’Égypte – Description of Egypt

When Napoleon Bonaparte invaded Egypt in 1798, he brought with him an entourage of more than 160 scholars and scientists. Known as the French Commission on the Sciences and Arts of Egypt, these experts undertook an extensive survey of the country’s archaeology, topography, and natural history. A soldier who was part of the expedition found the famous Rosetta Stone, which the French linguist and scholar Jean-François Champollion (1790-1832) later used to unlock many of the mysteries that long had surrounded the language of ancient Egypt. In 1802 Napoleon authorized the publication of the commission’s findings in a monumental, multi-volume work that included plates, maps, scholarly essays, and a detailed index. Publication of the original Imperial edition began in 1809. It proved so popular that a second edition was published under the post-Napoleonic Bourbon Restoration.

The Description de L’Egypte is arguably the largest single effort ever undertaken by one culture to study another. It was the fruit of the labours of 167 scientists brought by Napoleon Bonaparte to Egypt in 1798, who after a stay of three years, went back France and worked diligently with some 2000 draftsmen and engravers for 20 years to produce a monumental work of almost 1000 plates and some 7500 pages of text. The magnificent large format editions are works of art of unprecedented accuracy and beauty. The plates are grouped in 11 volumes of 56 cm x 75 cm each, under the headings of Antiquities (5 volumes), Natural History, covering Egypt’s flora and fauna in three volumes, and the Modern State (as it existed in 1798-1800) in two volumes, and a Geographic Atlas volume. The nine volumes of text also covered Antiquities (4 volumes) the Modern State (3 volumes), Natural History (2 volumes), and an Index volume. The “Royal edition” (1821-1829) from the collections of the ‘Bibliotheca Alexandrina’ is presented here.

Bibliotheca Alexandrina

Description de l'Égypte