Rare Books and Special Collections Library

Description de l’Egypte

Sphinx and PyramidThe Rare Books and Special Collections Library holds a very rare first edition, as well as later editions, of the Description de l’Egypte, the monumental illustrated series of volumes compiled by the scholars who accompanied Napoleon's expedition to Egypt in 1798. For four years more than 150 artists, engineers, linguists, andBirds scientists traveled throughout the country, examining almost every aspect of ancient and contemporary Egypt. They recorded and measured in meticulous detail Egypt's topography, flora and fauna, and its ancient and contemporary architecture. The scholars' work was published in Paris in 22 volumes by the French government in Paris between 1809 and 1822, sold by subscription, with a second edition issued by C. Panckoucke from 1821-1829.

Denderah TempleThe Description de l’Egypte contains textual and visual descriptions of Egypt’s natural environment, and depicts pharaonic antiquities,Islamic monuments, and the layout of urban areas. It also documents contemporary daily life in Egypt, including customs, religion, dress, agriculture, transportation, commerce, and arts and crafts.In the
exhaustive and systematic extent of its research, and Murad Beyitscomprehensive visual and textual portrayals, the Description was unlike any work of scholarship attempted to that point. The publication of the Description de l'Egypte is considered responsible for awakening intense European interest in Egypt, especially its ancient civilization. Its influence was felt in various fields, chief among them decorative arts and the study of history.

Rosetta View
The editions held at the RBSCL include over 900 color plates and over 3,000 illustrations in three sections: Antiquities, the Modern State, and Natural History. The volumes measure up to 107cm x 71cm in size. The RBSCL also possesses the 1802 Voyage dans la Basse et la Haute Egypte (translated the next year as Memnon TorsoTravels in Upper and Lower Egypt), by the French expedition's lead scholar Baron Dominique Vivant Denon. The library also holds numerous other works relating to the Napoleonic presence in Egypt and Britain's military response.