The Emperor's private library

Located in the Petits Appartements, it contains work-related books reserved for the Emperor's personal use.

Transferred in 1808 from the study on the first floor, the volumes were stored in the bookcases made for this room by the cabinetmaker Jacob-Desmalter. Four bookcases come from the residence at Saint-Cloud and were used in the first layout in 1804 and subsequently re-used.

This library in the same condition as it was at the end of the 19th century can still be seen by the public today.

Napoleon I had a private library in each of his residences. They all featured the same design and the same classification system, for ease of use.

Thanks to the inventory conducted in 1810 which is still in the library, we know all about the classification system with 15 categories identified by a letter of the alphabet and the list of some 5,000 works it contained.

There are a great deal of books about history, geography and the art of warfare, as the statesman used his library first and foremost to help him in his work. Napoleon was however also a voracious reader who appreciated literature, the theatre, the ancient and classical authors and philosophy. He wanted to be kept up to date with French and European intellectual life and expected his librarian to provide him with the latest new releases.

Apart from the works withdrawn by Napoleon in 1814 to be taken to Elba and subsequent additions, the books in this library that was used under the Restoration, the July Monarchy and the Second Empire, are the same as those listed in the inventory of 1810.

The Emperor's private library at the château de Fontainebleau
The Emperor's private library at the château de Fontainebleau - © Eric Sander
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The chateau is open every day except Tuesday, January 1st, May 1st and December 25th.
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