Napoleonic ephemera in the Curzon Collection

This blog post comes to you from Adrian Kerrison, Senior Collections Support Assistant, who has been supervising the Weston Library re-ingest move since September 2014.

When I am not working on the Weston move I have been listing the contents of the Lord Curzon collection of Napoleonic ephemera, a fascinating project assigned to me by the Rare Books department. Among the hundreds of engravings, portraits and satirical prints is a treasure trove of numerous letters from figures of the French Revolution and the Napoleonic era. Notable figures include Letizia Ramolino (Napoleon’s mother), Pope Pius IV, Jean Jacques Rousseau, Maximilien Robespierre, Rouget de Lisle (author of the ‘La Marseillaise’, also known as the French national anthem), Henri Sanson (executioner of Marie Antoinette among many others) and Giuseppe Garibaldi (one of the founders of modern-day Italy).

Curzon b. 15(229)
Curzon b. 15(229)

And of course, there are a few letters from Mr. Bonaparte himself. Pictured is a military despatch written by a 25 year old Napoleon serving as Commander in Chief of Artillery for the Army of Italy, dated 14 October 1794 (the date in pencil is probably wrong). What is interesting about this document is not only that it was written by a young Napoleon early in his military career, but also that he does not omit the ‘u’ from his surname. Born Napoleone di Buonaparte to Corsican-Italian parents, he began to omit the ‘u’ from his surname sometime in the mid-1790’s to make it sound more French in an effort to propel himself in a country suspicious of foreigners.
If anyone would like to have a go at translating and transcribing his handwriting, please send me an email at adrian.kerrison@bodleian.ox.ac.uk and I will update this post!
More to come!

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