Northwestern to return Napoleon Bonaparte family letter to France

Cat Zakrzewski, Campus Editor

University Library will present a letter from Napoleon Bonaparte’s brother and 250 other documents to a top French diplomat serving the Chicago area on Thursday.

The letter, written by Joseph Bonaparte, discusses a skirmish in Corsica involving Napoleon Bonaparte. Dated April 27, 1792, the letter was given to NU as part of the McBride Collection in the 1980s and discovered four years ago.

“Issues and problems of displaced cultural material and ownership are common,” associate University librarian Jeffrey Garrett said in a news release. “Although works of art receive the most public attention, all kinds of cultural property are held, but not necessarily owned, by museums and libraries.”

The collection, which spans about 450 years, was given to the library by the family of Jack McBride. He saved the documents from destruction toward the end of World War II while stationed in Corsica as a magician and dancer in a USO troupe.

The collection includes correspondence by prominent French figures, ranging from poets to prominent dramatists. It also contains documents with an unknown connection, ranging from proclamations related to the Oregon territory to a handmade swastika.

The symposium and ceremony will take place 2-4 p.m. in the Big Ten Room of Norris University Center.