It was one of the most ambitious projects the world had ever seen. After taking command of the Egyptian campaign around the turn of the 19th century, Napoleon gathered a staff of France’s top scientists, artists, explorers and others to undertake a concept like no other, a complete and comprehensive survey of the country’s monuments, plants, animals and more. The result was the Description de l’Egypte, a multi-volume set which began in 1803 but wasn’t completed until 1830.
Christie’s has announced the sale of the Michel Wittock Collection, Part IV, which will be held in Paris on May 11 which will include an exceptional copy of the Description de l’Egypte, bound by Jean-Joseph Tessier in polished and richly decorated calfskin. The 23 volumes in their original mahogany display case are expected to sell for €500,000 to €700,000. This is the first edition of the publication and is printed on woven paper with handcolored ornithological plates. The final work included more than 900 engraved plates. This copy was bound by the Parisian binder Jean-Joseph Tessier using tools specifically cut for the project. This particular copy belonged to Jean-Joseph Courvoisier (1775-1835) who was appointed the minister of justice in 1829 and received this set as a gift commemorating that occasion.