European romanticism

The 19th century started with Napoleon’s imperial epic, which would shake the world and provoke a rise of nationalism. In 1797, the autograph manuscript of the Rivoli Proclamation set the tone. The world’s fate was at stake at Erfurt in 1808 when Napoleon met Tsar Alexander I to propose dividing Europe between East and West. The meeting and surrounding festivities were described by Goethe in his 1809 ‘Weimar Edition’. Goethe travelled from Weimar, his hometown, to visit Napoleon. He confessed his admiration for the emperor to Hegel who considered him the ‘Spirit of the World’ (Phenomenology of Spirit, 1807).

The handwritten notes Valéry dedicated to Martin Bodmer in 1935 contain a comparison between Goethe and Napoleon. Madame de Staël, who represents the other vision of Europe, wrote comments on the galley proofs of the 1810 edition of De l’Allemagne, which Napoleon had confiscated and torn to shreds. Napoleon’s arch-enemy Chateaubriand, the prodigious author of the Memoirs from beyond the Grave and friend of Tsar Alexander, made clear his political involvement by taking part in the Congress of Verona that declared war on Spain in 1822.

Romanticism and dreams epitomize German and English poetry. Edward Young’s Nights, illustrated by William Blake in 1797, had a great influence on the Sturm und Drang generation. Of all the manuscripts and first editions of poets in the collection, pride of place goes to:

  • Byron: autograph of Childe Harold, pre-1810
  • Keats: autograph and first edition of the poem O Melancholy, and an early 20th-century edition highlighting the sonnet Bright Star
  • Novalis: autograph manuscript of Hymns to Night dated 1800
  • Schubert: an autograph score by Schubert of 1819. From Stefan Zweig’s private collection

> Modern times

Napoleon, Manuscrit autographe.

Napoleon, Manuscrit autographe (détail).

Napoleon, Manuscrit autographe (détail).

Novalis, Hymnes à la Nuit.

Schubert (detail).

Schubert (detail).

The 19th-century novel features first editions of Russian, German, English and French novels.


  • Pushkin, Onegin, 1833
  • Gogol, Dead Souls, 1842
  • Dostoevsky, The Brothers Karamazov, 1842
  • Tolstoy, War and Peace, 1868 


  • Stifter, Indian Summer, 1857
  • Keller, Green Henry, 1879
  • Hauptmann, The Weavers, 1892
  • Fontane, The Stechlin, 1899; Effi Briest 


  • Charles Dickens, Oliver Twist, 1838


  • autograph manuscripts of A Woman of Thirty by Balzac, 1832
  • Flaubert, Salammbô; Madame Bovary (notes)
  • Zola, Doctor Pascal, pre-1893

1857, the year Flaubert published Madame Bovary and Baudelaire The Flowers of Evil, marks the beginning of modernism. Four major characters are gathered here:

  • an original lithograph of 1927 by Rouault portraying Baudelaire. The poet had defended Tannhäuser during its first performance in Paris in 1861 
  • a 1842 libretto of Wagner’s Flying Dutchman 
  • first edition of 1819 Die Welt als Wille und Vorstellung by Schopenhauer, with corrections in the author’s hand
  • Nietzsche who, like Wagner, owed a lot to Schopenhauer’s theories,

saw in Wagner’s music the incarnation of the Übermensch who sheds all Christian values.

Nietzsche’s works take up most of the showcase:

  • a first edition of Thus Spoke Zarathustra, his ‘Fifth Gospel’, 1883
  • autographs of poems (pre-1884)
  • a letter from Torino dated 1888 and signed ‘The Antichrist’
  • an etching of Nietzsche in an 1899 edition of the magazine Pan

According to Jung, Nietzsche and Freud, the desire for power and Eros are indications of the bipolar nature of the human mind.