Napoleon Rides Again: New Donations in DePaul’s Special Collections

While the events surrounding the feats and follies of Napoleon Bonaparte’s rise to power and remarkable military campaigns are some 200 years in the past, their history continues to live on through continued donations to DePaul’s Special Collections and Archives. A recent transfer of rare book materials from Christian Brothers University in Memphis has augmented the already significant collection on Napoleon, which now stands at approximately 4,500 volumes of books, pamphlets, maps, broadsides, and artifacts. The initial volumes of the Napoleon Collection were acquired in 1936 from the estate of Otto Lemke with later enhancements of estate gifts from Chicagoans Max Thorek and Milton Lewis.

Napoleon Waterloo
Interior illustration from cigarette manufacturer’s: The Napoleon Album. Richmond : Allen & Ginter, [188-?]
This recent accession was originally collected by noted Napoleonic bibliophile, Leslie H. Kuehner. He became interested in Napoleon as a young man when he learned he had a maternal ancestor who served in the Napoleonic Old Guard and fought alongside Napoleon at Waterloo in 1815. When Christian Brothers University needed to find a new home for Kuehner’s collection, DePaul was chosen for its existing collecting interests in Napoleon scholarship and also because Kuehner, in his service to the Catholic Church, once served as President of the Particular Council of Memphis of the St. Vincent de Paul Society, a noted charity organization.

The primary strength of Kuehner’s Napoleon Collection lies in its wealth of English language first editions and its emphasis on the British reaction to the events in France. This includes several titles that support academic research with DePaul’s existing collection of circa 1803 English broadsides that warn of impending invasion from France. The Substance of Mr. Pitt’s Speech in the House of Commonsprovides early documentation of England’s concern by concluding that, “The security at present is certainly not solid”

Napoleon Arabic
Cover from the Arabic title: A. Eskandar Bayati’s. The Final Events of the Life of Napoleon. [S.l.] : Hekmat Book Store, [1940?].
Among the other highlights from Kuehner’s collection are such novelty titles as an Arabic biography of Napoleon Bonaparte and two volumes of “clippings” collected and assembled by a citizen during the early years of the 19th century from English periodicals and other news sources. The donation also contains some original American imprints that record positive and negative reactions to these European events. The speech of American statesman and author of large sections of the Constitution of the United States, Gouverneur Morris, printed in 1814, exalts the restoration of the Bourbons and the fall of “gloomy tyrant.” In 1880, however, the Allen & Ginter Manufacturers of Cigarettes in Richmond, VA created an illustrated color “gift book” that promotes Napoleon’s victories by concluding that had Napoleon succeeded, “Europe would be more advanced in civilization and in happiness that she is to-day.”

Holdings are cataloged and searchable in DePaul Library’s online catalog. For further information about the Napoleon Collection, please contact Special Collections and Archives at 773-325-7864, or email

Bayati, A. Eskandar. The Final Events of the Life of Napoleon. [S.l.] : Hekmat Book Store, [1940?]. (Arabic) Call Number: SpCN. 944.05 B356f1940

Morris, Gouverneur. An Oration, Delivered on Wednesday, June 29, 1814, at the request of a number of citizens of New-York: in celebration of the recent deliverance of Europe from the yoke of military despotism / by the Honorable Gouverneur Morris ; published at the request of the committee of arrangements. New York : Printed and published by Van Winkle and Wiley, 1814. Call Number: SpCN. 944.05 M875o1814

The Napoleon Album. Richmond : Allen & Ginter, [188-?] Call Number: SpCN. 944.05 N216aL1880 

Pitt, William. Substance of Mr. Pitt’s Speech in the House of Commons, on Monday, the 3d [sic!] of February, 1800, on the subject of his majesty’s message respecting the late overtures for peace from Bonaparte: in which are clearly developed the origin and the progress of the war and proving, that on the part of this country it is a war of defense only. Bristol : J. Rudhall, 1800. Call Number: SpCN. 940.27 P688s1800

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