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Napoleon’s Library on the Island of Elba

The library Napoleon created on the Island of Elba, having send for a nucleus of book from his Fontainebleau residence, was housed in the Palazzina dei Mulini and counted 2378 volumes, some of which are on display in the Museum. The tomes best loved by the exiled emperor were history books and volumes on the military arts, but he also favoured literature, geography and law. The collection also features a sizeable nucleus of Greek and Latin classics. The books from Fontainebleau were joined by those sent by his uncle, Cardinal Fesch, but few are in Italian, with only one printed in Livorno.

Like all imperial libraries, the library on the Island of Elba also comprised two distinct nuclei: one for the exclusive use of Bonaparte, the other for his court, women and children. A large part of the emperor’s books, bound in leather, were marked on the spine and the external plates with an “N” surrounded by two crossed laurel branches or accompanied by the Imperial coat of arms. The library also houses two exemplars that belonged to Pauline Borghese, marked with a gilded “P” topped by a crown, whereas three ex–libris marked with the initial “C” indicate provenance in the library of Napoleon’s sister, Caroline.

When Napoleon left the island, he donated the library to the city of Portoferraio. It was opened to the public in the summer of 1815. With Italian Unity, the Napoleonic bequest, reduced to around one thousand exemplars, was enriched with donations from various people, resulting in the Municipal Library.

National Museum of Napoleonic Residences on the Island of Elba
Piazzale Napoleone
Portoferraio (Livorno)

The museum is open according to the following schedule
Monday through Saturday 9 AM to 7PM, except Tuesday (day of closure)
Sunday from 9 AM to 1 PM