Saturday, 5 May 2007

The Library of the Duke of Aumale

Henri d’Orléans, duc d’Aumale (1822-1897)

The son of Louis-Philippe d’Orléans, king of the French, the duke of Aumale was a distinguished bibliophile having formed an amazing collection of rare books which became one of the best private libraries of the XIXth century.

Aumale’s Library and vast fortune was based on the inheritance from the last of the Condés – Prince Louis-Henri-Joseph, duke of Bourbon (1756-1830) who died without children in rather mysterious circumstances.
The princes of Condé possessed a very rich Library, which included a superb collection of manuscripts, confiscated by the Revolution in 1792, on account of the then prince of Condé, Louis-Joseph (1736-1818) anti-revolutionary activities in exile. Chantilly’s precious collections was sent to the Louvre, the estate was ravaged the château and other buildings were sold and partially demolished.
Fortunately, the library and other collections were partially returned to the prince in 1815, after the Restoration of Louis XVIII. The prince of Condé son, Louis-Joseph, duke of Bourbon, saw his heir and son – the duke of Enghien, being executed by order of Napoleon at the instigation of the infamous Talleyrand at Vincennes in 1804 and decided to leave his vast fortune to his grand-nephew and godson the young duke of Aumale.
After a brief career in the Army, having fought in Algeria, the duke had to leave France with his family after the Revolution of 1848 which put an end to the Orléans July Monarchy. They went to England where they lived from 1848 to 1870, and it was then that he started building his collection through acquisitions all over Europe and at the important auction sales of books that luckily for him took place in the second half of the century. Illuminated manuscripts, including precious XVth century Book of Hours, and incunabula merited his particular attention (see, an on-line presentation of the Très Riches Heures du Duc de Berry, which belongs to the duke of Aumale collection).
After his return to France, the duke had the château and park (designed by André Le Notre, by command of Louis II de Bourbon-Condé (1621-1686) - the Grand Condé) rebuilt, and in order to properly house his Library ordered architect Honoré Daumet to build a Cabinet des Livres, which still today can be visited and admired.
Contrary to the usual destiny of private Libraries formed by wealthy bibliophiles, we owe to the duke of Aumale having prevented this by donating his Library and the château de Chantilly to the Institut de France. The year after the duke’s death the Condé Museum was open to the public (see, Bibliothèque du château de Chantilly).
to Bibliothèques privées, bibliothèques de collectionneurs at the Google Group – Forum Livres Anciens (in French)
Short biography at the Académie Française website
Château de Chantilly (in English)

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