NAPOLEON – DURAND, Sophie Cohonset (1772-1850). Mes Souvenirs sur Napoléon, sa famille et sa cour. Paris: Antoine Beraud for the author and Pigoreau, 1819.
2 volumes, 12º (171 x 104mm). With errata in volume 2. (Spotting throughout, a few corners torn probably by Napoleon.) Contemporary red quarter roan, the front covers gilt-stamped ‘Ste-Hélène’, flat spines tooled and lettered in gilt (corners rubbed, sides lightly soiled, volume numbers transposed). Provenance: Elizabeth Fox, Baroness Holland (1771-1845; provenance recorded in Marchand’s Mémoires) – Napoleon Bonaparte (1769-1821; ink stamp on title of vol. 1 and pencilled annotations throughout, these also transcribed in ink by Henri-Gatien Bertrand, 1773-1844) – Louis-Joseph-Narcisse Marchand (1791-1876; inscription recording the provenance and the gift to:) – Pierre-Nérée, Abbé Dassance.
Together with: Durand's Mémoires sur Napoléon (1828) in contemporary green quarter morocco.
‘FAUX!’, ‘ABSURDE!’, ‘BÊTISES!’: THE ANGRY REACTIONS OF THE EXILED NAPOLEON. ONE OF THE MOST FAMOUS RELICS FROM ST HELENA.
First edition. Sophie Cohonset, widow of General Durand, was Première Dame to the Empress.
Her book was sent to the exiled emperor by Lady Holland, one of his English admirers, who with her husband provided him with many books in St Helena. In his Mémoires, Marchand records the story of these two volumes, how they reached the Emperor, his anger upon reading them, and how Marchand found them the following morning, strewn on the carpet, peppered with fiery marginalia.
A UNIQUE COPY ANNOTATED IN NAPOLEON'S HAND.
The first volume bears 26 autograph annotations in pencil in Napoleon’s characteristically difficult hand; Marshal Bertrand’s ink transcription accompanies each of these. With the exception of three somewhat longer comments, these are generally one-word barbs: ‘Faux’ is used no less than 15 times.
The seven ink notes in volume two are in another hand, perhaps under Napoleon's dictation.
Napoleon's furious annotations reached Sophie Cohonset who, with a great flair for marketing, decided to reproduce these in a new edition of her Souvenirs with a title-page stating proudly: ‘Avec des notes critiques faites par le prisonnier de Sainte-Hélène’. Cohonset, however, leaves off several, and suppresses two inappropriate chapters recording rendez-vous with actresses. A copy of this revised edition is included in the lot.
Marchand kept the precious relic and, in 1847, noted that they were the most richly annotated books he had from Napoleon's library in St Helena (‘De tous les livres que je tiens de l’empereur Napoléon, ces deux-ci sont les plus annotés de sa main’).
The catalogue of the St Helena Library auction (Sotheby's 23 July 23 1823) included just five books annotated by Napoleon.
Tulard, Nouvelle bibliographie critique des mémoires sur l’époque napoléonienne, 479 (noting this copy).