DESCRIPTION DE L'EGYPTE | Paris, 1809-1822, first edition, 20 vol.
DESCRIPTION DE L'ÉGYPTE
Description de l'Égypte, ou recueil des observations et des recherches qui ont été faites en Égypte pendant l'expédition de l'armée française, publié par les orders de Sa Majesté l’Empereur Napoléon le Grand. Paris: Imprimerie impériale, and Imprimerie Royale, 1809-1822
FIRST EDITION, 20 volumes, comprising:
9 VOLUMES OF TEXT, folio (380 x 245mm.), half-titles, 34 engraved plates and maps, some spotting, comprising:
Antiquités mémoires I: 3 plates and maps (2 folding), 10 letterpress tables (5 folding)
Antiquités mémoires II: 19 plates (16 of the Rosetta stone), 2 folding maps, portrait of Berthollet
Antiquités déscriptions I: unillustrated
Antiquités déscriptions II: portrait of Monge
État moderne I: typeset music
État moderne II pt 1: one plate (p.468)
État moderne I pt 2: 4 plates (3 folding, other at p.106), portrait of Conté
Histoire naturelle I: unillustrated
Histoire naturelle II: folding plate, portrait of Lancret
11 PLATE VOLUMES, ELEPHANT FOLIO (average 695 x 520mm.), half-titles, 894 engraved plates and maps, many double-page or folding, 43 coloured, occasional spotting, comprising:
Préface historique; Explication des planches, text only
Antiquités I: frontispiece, map and 100 plates (4 coloured)
Antiquités II: 92 plates (22 coloured)
Antiquités III: 69 plates (3 coloured)
Antiquités IV: 74 plates (one coloured)
Antiquités V: 89 plates
État moderne I: folding map, 83 plates
État moderne II: 87 plates
Histoire naturelle I: 62 plates
Histoire naturelle II: 182 plates (13 coloured)
Carte topographique: engraved double-page title, key map, one plate, general map on 3 double-page sheets, 47 detailed maps (all but 6 double-page)
Plates in nineteenth-century red half morocco by Zoubre ("successeur de Mr. Hirou, relieur, des Bibliotheques Royale, du Dépot Général de la Guerre") with his ticket, spines gilt, a little fading to some covers
Text in contemporary red boards, spines gilt with 3 black labels, some restoration to joints and head and foot of spines
A COMPLETE SET OF THE FIRST EDITION, WELL BOUND AND IN GOOD CONDITION.
The Description de l'Égypte was the first scientific survey of all Egypt, from its antiquities to its agriculture including language, music, costume, and natural history, and it concludes with a detailed and accurate map of the region. The numerous plates depicting the antiquities provide a comprehensive record of the richness of ancient Egyptian culture.
At the time of publication, the Description de l'Égypte was the largest printed work ever produced. Its influence was enormous, establishing Egyptology as an intellectual discipline and nurturing a passion for Egyptian art throughout the Western World. Edited by some of the leading intellectual figures in France, the Description also includes contributions from celebrated artists such as Jacques Barraband, Pierre-Joseph Redouté, Geoffrey Saint-Hilaire, Jules-César Savigny and others.
The combined work of several dozen scholars, this "living archive" of Napoleon's expedition took over twenty years to complete. The huge undertaking was co-ordinated by the Institut de l'Egypte, founded by Napoleon and with Gaspar Monge, the mathematician, as its president. Monge and the chemist Berthollet recruited leading academic figures to join the expedition, including Geoffrey Saint-Hilaire, Savigny, Méchain, Quesnot Nouet, René Desgenettes and the surgeon Dominique Jean Larrey. Of their many achievements, the discovery of the Rosetta Stone must rank amongst the most important. It was only after Napoleon's invasion of Egypt in 1798 that Europe came to know the Orient more scientifically. In the preface to the work, Fourier explains that scholars were grappling with the mysteries of Egypt in order to restore the country from what he sees as its current state of "barbarism" to its former greatness. By engulfing Egypt with the instruments of Western knowledge and power, Fourier maintained that history would recall how "Egypte fut le thêatre de sa [Napoleon's] gloire, et préserve de l'oubli toutes les circonstances de cet événement extraordinaire". With the publication of this monumental work, Fourier's ambition was certainly achieved.
BAL RIBA 846; Blackmer 476; Nissen BBI 2234; Nissen ZBI 4608
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