Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Tragic loss of ancient manuscripts

Napoleon's 'Description de L'Egypte' lost to fire amid clashes
Ahram Online, Sunday 18 Dec 2011

Thousands of irreplaceable manuscripts at Cairo's Institute for
Scientific Research are lost to fire amid attack military attack on
protesters at nearby Cabinet building

A fire that erupted on Saturday in Egypt’s Institute for the
Advancement of Scientific Research has resulted in the loss of several
precious manuscripts, according to Zein Abdel-Hadi, head of Egypt’s
Libraries and Archives Department, which has taken possession of many
of the books rescued from the fire. The original manuscript of
Napoleon’s historic “Description De L'Egypte” was reportedly among the

Young revolutionaries rushed into the institute – which is located
next to the Cabinet building, the site of ongoing clashes between
security personnel and anti-government protesters – as soon as the
fire erupted in hopes of rescuing the thousands original manuscripts
housed there. Nearly 30,000 books were rescued out of a total of
around 196,000 in the institute’s collection, estimated Abdel-Hadi,
who went on to commend the young activists’ courage.

The “Description De L'Egypte” was initially drawn up by the team of
French scientists who accompanied French empire-builder Napoleon on
his invasion of Egypt (1798-1801). The 20-volume book was originally
entitled “Description of Egypt, or the Collection of Notes and
Research Done in Egypt during the French Campaign by Napoleon

After the scientists’ return to France, the French interior minister
at the time, Jean Antoine Schpetal, organised a special committee
mandated with collecting and publishing all the material, which was
eventually published in ten volumes of engravings, nine volumes of
research, and one atlas.

The volumes are considered among the most important historical works
of the early nineteenth century.