DePaul University’s Special Collections holds the second largest collection of materials on Napoleon and his era in the United States.

The 4,000 volumes which are the basis of this collection were purchased by Otto Lemke of Milwaukee, Wisconsin during the first decades of the twentieth century. DePaul bought the collection from his estate in 1936. Mr. Lemke's focus was on the Emperor himself and the military campaigns. The collection contains biographies and correspondence of Napoleon and the members of his family, in both French and English. The books are rich in pictorial representations of Napoleon, as well as of the monuments dedicated to him, and scenes of his life.

All aspects of the military campaigns are well documented with accounts by and about French, British, German, and Russian soldiers in the Napoleonic Wars. The battles themselves are thoroughly covered, with volumes that contain extensive maps and pictorial representations.

The collection includes memoirs of observers of the French Revolution and the ensuing events in France; a selection of English Broadsides warning against imminent French invasion; a selection of pre-revolutionary pamphlets; and various other miscellaneous materials. Estate gifts from Chicagoans Max Thorek and Milton Lewis enhanced the collection. Dr. Thorek's books focus on the lives of the Royal Family and events of the Revolution as well as Napoleon; Dr. Lewis' collection includes ceramic figurines and hand bound books with medallions and engravings of Napoleon embedded in the covers.

While a fellow at DePaul’s Humanities Center in 2001-2002, Professor Pascale-Anne Brault of the DePaul University Department of Modern Languages had the opportunity to do extensive work in DePaul’s Napoleon archives. But given the extent of the archives and her very specific focus back then—Napoleon’s relationship to his son François-Charles-Joseph Napoleon —she barely scratched the surface of these invaluable archives. That year, the Head of DePaul University Libraries' Special Collections, Kathryn DeGraff, brought to Professor Brault's attention a number of documents that had been left uncatalogued for lack of time and resources. These were some 300 documents, mostly short political pieces or personal pamphlets in support of or against Napoleon, published, for the most part, at the time of his governing of France. The documents included memoirs by members of Napoleon’s entourage, peace treaties, letters, medical treatises, speeches, and so on. Two French majors, Zack Baer and William Zutter, worked to establish an annotated bibliography of these works in order to help the DePaul Special Collections staff catalogue these holdings. Peter Hicks, historian at the Fondation Napoléon in Paris, came to DePaul during this period and found the collection to be extremely impressive. In fall 2009 and fall 2011 Professor Brault decided to highlight this part of the Napoleon collection by having students in an upper-level French Translation course translate into English the most interesting of these texts. Students were paired in groups of two and assigned either a whole longer document or several smaller ones to translate. Each translation went through many drafts and benefited from collective class critiques. Students also wrote introductions and footnotes to help contextualize the work.

These texts include:

  • a selection of Napoleon's proclamations in Egypt
  • a report on Waterloo and the ensuing peace treaty
  • a number of eulogies of Napoleon
  • a dialogue between Napoleon and his faithful companion, Marshall Bernard, who encourages Napoleon to resist committing suicide
  • a letter to Napoleon's son about his father
  • the treaty signed between France and the allied forces in 1814
  • excerpts from Napoleon’s papers while in St Helena, including his will
  • a medical treatise proving Napoleon’s death was not due to cancer
  • a manifesto written by Alexander I
  • and a number of documents concerning the Empresses Joséphine and Marie-Louise.

In addition to these texts is the translation by students of a series of documents that Professor Brault collected under the title Napoleon & Son: The Story of a Lost Legacy as part of her 2002 project for the Humanities Center. A DePaul publication at the time, it has now found its place next to these pamphlet translations.

None of this work could have been done without the extraordinary dedication of DePaul's French students, who took to these translation projects with truly admirable passion and professionalism. From researching the period, to familiarizing themselves with the language of the time, to reaching out to historians, the medical community and other specialists, students went to great lengths to make sure that their translations were as faithful as possible to the originals.

These translations are now electronically available to the DePaul community and the public at large. The hope is that they might prove helpful to history students and general readers, many of whom might not have the linguistic skills to do research in French but could still be interested in the content of these documents. The fact that these archives have received increased attention from DePaul faculty and students in recent years demonstrates the potential relevance of this work for the DePaul community.

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Submissions from 2011

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Bonaparte Did Not Die of Cancer, Stacey Bear and Kelly Doyle

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The Grand Manifesto of Alexander I, Kelcie Daniels, Hannah Michael-Schwartz, and Nick Spring

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Curious and Unpublished Anecdotes about the life of Empress Josephine, Emily Delehanty and Kristen Gayer

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Testament of Empress Josephine, Emily Delehanty and Kristen Gayer

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Anniversary of the Death of Empress Josephine, Ana Grahovac and Emily Kettell

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Definitive Peace Treaty, Amy Margrave and Emma Sheer

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Eulogy of a Death, Danielle Mettler and Samuel Krc

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Leadership and Demands of the Imperial Guard, George Overton and Kenya Tapia

Submissions from 2009

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The Elegy on the Death of Napoleon, Followed by His Farewells to Marie-Louise; by the Widow of a Soldier, Allison Crouch and Amanda Hassett

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Proclomations, Speeches and Letters of Napoleon Buonaparte During His Campaign of Egypt 1-8, Trent Dailey-Chwalibog and Brittany Gignac

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Treaty Signed Between the Allied Powers and His Majest the Emperor Napoleon, Nathaniel J. Hojinacki and Jeff Larsen

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A Soldier's Thoughts on Napoleon's Grave, Emily Hughes and Leah Johnson

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Bulletin Suivant and Ministère de la Guerre, Chelsea Lindeman and Emily Wisser

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To François-Charles-Joseph Napoleon, Born at the Chateau des Tuileries March 20th, 1811. , Christopher Meinhardt and Genevieve Pocius

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Political Fragment Excerpted From the Papers of Napoleon, Dead in Saint Helena, Samantha Mowry and Conor Murphy

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Napoleon Bonaparte's Proclamations, speeches and letters during his campaign in Egypt 9-16, Janet Swatscheno and Patricia Denci

Submissions from 2002

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Napoleon and Son, Cécile Bladier, Denise Blostein, Angela Cassata, Phil-Elleana Ficklin, Ryan Garrett, Amanda Heflin, Lily Hoagland, Angela Maloney, Anna Milon, Maria Milutinovic, Dorpha Philidor, Anne-Marie Poincelet, Atsuko Sato, Ana Sekler, Ruth Steffen, Noel Straney, and Emily White