“AN IMMENSE SENSATION”: FIRST EDITION IN ENGLISH OF LAS CASES’ ACCOUNT OF NAPOLEON, HANDSOMELY BOUND
(NAPOLEON) LAS CASES, Count De. Memorial De Sainte Helene. Journal of the Private Life and Conversations of the Emperor Napoleon at Saint Helena. London: Henry Colburn, 1823. Eight volumes. Octavo, contemporary three-quarter crushed red morocco rebacked with original elaborately gilt-decorated spines laid down, raised bands, marbled endpapers, top edges gilt. $2700.
First edition in English of Las Casas’ famed eight-volume history of Napoleon, with three engraved folding maps (of the Italian Campaign, the Russian Campaign, and island of Saint Helena), a view of Napoleon’s birthplace and a folding plan of Longwood.
"Fascinated by Napoleon's genius… [Las Cases] insisted on sharing his exile on Saint Helena," dutifully recording the emperor's conversations, which upon publication created "an immense sensation" (Magnusson, 862). Though compiling these notes with "the obvious aim of creating a Napoleonic legend," his Memorial is "of great interest" for passages describing Napoleon's reflections on the ruinous war in Spain, his failure to dismember Austria after Wagram, his marriage to an Austrian princess ("I set foot on an abyss, concealed by a bed of flowers"), and his role as arbiter in the great struggle between past and present (Britannica 19, 210). On publication critics especially singled out the sections that were "dictated by Napoleon himself, giving an account of the battles of Ariole, Rivoli and that period of his Italian campaigns" (Blackwood's Edinburgh Magazine XIV:170). Preceded by the 1822 first French edition. See Brunet III:859.
Interiors generally fresh, expert restoration to corner of folding map with minor archival reinforcement to map verso (IV), slight edge-wear to boards. A handsome copy.