Handmade Books on Napoleonic Themes

These imaginative distillations of the significance of aspects of the Napoleonic epic

are commissioned by the Museum, in collaboration with Sarah Simons.

The Uniform Box

Bearing a red moiré ribbon, the box is inspired by Napoleon’s uniform of a Colonel of the Foot Grenadiers of the Imperial Guard,

as presented at the Musée Napoléon Ier at Fontainebleau.Within the display case at that Museum,

Napoleon's uniform, an empty container, is mounted as a shell, a husk, or carapace.

A Year in Paris
T. Jefferson Coolidge, the great grandson of Thomas Jefferson, is sent to Paris as
minister to France in 1893. His year in Paris is both uneventful and entertaining.

Uncut pages require one to alter this book in order to read it.

The Reliquary
The worship impulse is sometimes assigned to an odd and interesting array of objects. Among them are relics and reliquaries;
the nature of these treasured items is examined in this book.


The Regalia

The ancient trappings of power bear a potent burden of symbolic meanings, which are catalogued in this book.
On the cover: the dove, a bird of peace, from the insignia of England, the only European monarchy to still hold a coronation ceremony.

The Fortune Seekers

The Brothers Grimm published Kinder- und Hausmärchen in 1812, a fateful year for Napoleon and for

much of Europe. One wonders how deeply the Napoleonic myth is embedded in these popular tales.

We also wonder - how much truth is contained in the fables we call history?
On the cover: Jean-Baptiste Gauthier’s The Tyrant Unmasked.

The Tomb of Napoleon

Within Les Invalides, the remains of Napoleon, like a highly volatile radioactive substance, lie isolated.

The pages of this book are meant to resemble geological strata; and the text compares the arrangement

of Napoleon's monument with the entombment of present-day hazardous material.

The Eagle

A homage to Abel Gance. This flip book recreates two minutes of his 1927 film Napoleon,

at a point when Bonaparte merges into a hybrid creature, mutating into a monstrous manifestation of his own symbol.

The postscript is a quote from Abel Gance: See in depth - do not persist in confusing that which moves with that which

trembles, discern behind the images the trace of the tears which often imbue them, or the trace of the flames

of the spirit which precipitate them, violent, tumultuous, self-destructive.

Lord Nelson

Text from the Nelson Monument at Guildhall. A respectful monument to Nelson as monument, shorn of the romance of

frailty and scandal.Includes a final commentary on Nelson's and Napoleon’s shared goal – glory – one achieved

by both; Nelson by securing the conventional world – Napoleon by destroying and reimagining it.

On the cover: detail from Heinrich Fuger's 1800 painting Rear Admiral Lord Nelson, KB.

The Chimaera

Fantastic creatures populated the domestic spaces of the eighteenth century. Monopodia, griffins, harpies, sphinxes,

and otherodd zoological hybrids abounded, perched on and under furniture, positioned in mute witness to supremely

dramatic events. This book explores the unique character of these grotesques.

The Mirror

A meditation on the elusiveness of the distant past and our attempts to discern the residue of it that remains.

The internal text is reflected on mirrored pages. The cover text is from Napoleon's 1796 letter to Josephine:
What is the future? What is the past? What are we? What is the magic fluid that surrounds us and conceals

the things we most need to know? We live and die in the midst of marvels.

Napoleon in Russia

The text in this hardcover book is collected from Count Phillipe-Paul de Segur’s contemporary account,

Napoleon’s Russian Campaign. In these excerpts, the Emperor perpetually advances and retreats, in a stagnant and suffocating

atmosphere of futility and inertia, activity and inactivity. On the cover: detail from J.F.A. Clar's painting Moscow in Flames.

The Usurper

A comic book, employing imagery from James Gillray, and text from William Hone’s Buonaparte-phobia,

in a demonstration of the British demonization of the Corsican Usurper. This book begins with a quote from

Lord Byron's Don Juan, which illustrates the eternal conflict between hero-worship and disenchantment:
I want a hero: an uncommon want,
When every year and month sends forth a new one,
Till, after cloying the gazettes with cant,
The age discovers he is not the true one.

The Maps

In contrast to the idea of history as a linear course of seemingly fated events, this book shows a more complicated view.

14 maps situate in reality places of legendary status, embedded deeply in their map-webs. The multiplicity of routes,

detours, and destinations is demonstrated, and we end with St. Helena, adrift in a blue void.

The Bellerophon

The trajectory of the Bellerophon myth parallels and diverges from the Napoleonic journey in this book.On the cover: the bee

which, when Bellerophon attempts to fly to heaven, stings Pegasus. Text in part from Lempriere's Classical Dictionary.

The Hat

This small book encompasses 160 years of French history. The clothing and trappings of majesty are

literal indications of power and control, from the lever du Roi Soleil of Louis XIV to the dishabille of Louis XVI.

The dangerous power these garments contain culminates in the potent symbolism of Napoleon’s hat.

The Comet

On looking, seeing and vanishing, in the life of comet-seeker Charles Messier (1730-1817).

Rather than explore the comet-metaphor of Napoleon's career, this book is a tribute to Charles Messier,

who spent a life examining the sky. Messier's stated intent in compiling his famous Catalogue of

Nebulae and Star Clusters was to document nebulous sky formations which might confuse,

and distract, from the discovery of comets. Thus his most influential accomplishment was

to create a list of objects that are not what one is seeking.


In 1826, Prince Achille Murat (Napoleon's nephew) and Catherine Daingerfield Willis (the grand-niece of George Washington)

marry. This book examines how the bloodlines and legacies of new and old worlds co-mingle and inevitably weaken.

The Years

The eight gatefold pages in this hardcover book isolate lines of a single paragraph from Virginia Woolf’s The Years.

The overheard conversation (about Napoleon) the static atmosphere of doubt and hesitation, and the blazing fire,

become to seemingly possess a depth of strange weighted significance.

Napoleon in Egypt

This book presents the possibility that Bonaparte's exposure to the monumentality, antiquity and grandeur of Egypt

substantially contributed to his subsequent transformation. Includes The Sphinx (whose mysteries prove more complex than at first appear)

The Great Pyramid (which provides Bonaparte with an irresistable opportunity for self-dramatization), and The Colossus. Papyrus cover.

The Triangle

Three paper booklets in a tri-fold paper cover explore the claiming and conquering of real and imagined territories.

Includes The Triangle (The exact yet incorporeal figures of geometry, like countries which we have not visited,

but dream about, exist in an imaginary reality. Yet the territory of triangles has been surveyed, mapped,

charted, and claimed, like any other realm), Triangulation (The first use of the properties of traingles for land surveying was in 1699,

when the cartographer Jean Picard made the first accurate map of France.This map was smaller than the standard map of the country,

to the dismay of Louis XIV) and Napoleon’s Theorem (If equilateral triangles are erected on the sides of any triangle,

the centers of each, when connected, will form an equilateral triangle).

The Tornado

Bonaparte’s appearance bears the impact of a force of nature. A cloth folder contains loose cards which scatter to multiply the

possible readings of Chateaubriand’s text, which when accurately assembled reads:

The thought of him was in the world before he was there in person. It stirred the earth in secret. One felt in 1789, at the moment

of his apparition, a forewarning of some formidable event, a suspense which seemed to have no cause.When the earth

is threatened by catastrophe one is warned by obscure commotions - one is afraid - one stands with eyes fixed

on the sky without knowing what is the matter or what is going to happen.