In 1798 Napoleon launched an expedition of 35,000 soldiers to conquer Egypt. The campaign revealed the splendor of a mysterious and forgotten civilization, as Napoleon's ships also carried 160 of France's finest scholars and scientists, as well as as well as about 2000 artists and technicians, including 400 engravers. Their task was to study all aspects of Egypt, from the hieroglyphs to the fauna. Traversing a country at war under the stifling heat of Egypt, they embarked on the first major study of a land virtually unknown to Europeans. They discovered the Valley of the Kings and the Rosetta stone which enabled scholars to read hieroglyphics. It was as though they were cataloguing the world's richest museum.
They produced a series of 16 massive volumes, "Description de l’Egypte". They were the largest engravings ever produced, and were made on a specially constructed press. The first volumes of engravings were presented to Napoleon in 1808. The beauty of engravings, and their very large formats makes Description de l'Égypte an exceptional work. The low number of copies made (~1000), its extremely high price and huge size made the work accessible only to the very elite of society. Nowadays it is likely only major state museums and libraries are in the possession of the complete work.
In 2016, Sothebys of London sold a full set of Description de l'Egypte for GBP 320,750 (US $442,000). Here is a once in a lifetime opportunity to own one of these rare, beautiful and important antique engravings.