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A book unveils some of École Polytechnique’s bibliophily treasures

The French ministry of the Armed forces is co-publishing an exquisitely illustrated art book giving access to some of the bibliophily treasures of the most renowned historical military libraries of France. École Polytechnique has contributed to this art book thanks to the many precious documents it has housed since its origins, 225 years ago.

Machine électrique Van Marum Bibliothèque Ecole polytechnique

École Polytechnique library houses many treasures, from textbooks, scientific essays and reference books that have been used to educate and train engineers and scientists for decades if not centuries to rare books, of which the oldest dates back to the 15th century. The access to almost a hundred of them is now made available to the general public thanks to a book of art co-published by the French ministry of the Armed forces with the contributions from libraries of the Ecole militaire which houses a training school for French army officers in Paris, of Saint-Cyr Coëtquidan military school in Britanny, of the Army Health Service and of the ministry of the Armed forces’ Historical Service.
The book guides the reader all around the world throughout the modern age, paying tribute to great scientific discoveries as well as major exploratory expeditions. It makes one travel from the banks of the Nile, with the first collective scientific mission of Polytechnicians alongside General Napoleon Bonaparte, to the most remote parts of Oceania. It embraces the history of sciences, from the first anatomy textbook to the beginning of the industrial era with the description of the first electrical machines in the eighteenth century.
L’X’s contribution
Each of the five libraries involved in the project carefully selected 20 of their most compelling books in five major domains: Science and Technology, the Art of War, Travel and Exploration, Military History and lastly “Oddities”, opening the door to the unexpected.
The presentation of these 100 books includes a summary of their content, reprints of some of their rich and unique artwork and reproduction of their exquisite bindings.
Along with the famous “Description of Egypt”, and its hand-colored plates mainly drawn by Polytechnicians accompanying Napoleon’s Egypt expedition, École Polytechnique has showcased travel and exploration books, the first experimental physics textbooks, books dating back to the origins of printing and even songs written by its students.
These precious works, rare, original or simply critical to teaching, as well as all the books of the library have been selected since the founding of École Polytechnique, to contribute to the multidisciplinary training of Polytechnicians. From the very start of the school, its founders wanted to establish a library that would be useful to teachers, researchers and students. The library’s collections have been assembled in a quite unique fashion thanks to Napoleonic campaigns, students and patrons’ donations.


Freycinet Histoire naturelle zoologie Bibliothèque Ecole polytechnique


100 Trésors des bibliothèques militaires.
Authors : Myriam Buanic-Geyer, Christophe Cloquier, Jean-François Dubo, FranckSmith, Marie-Christine Thooris.
Harcover, 384 pages, Price : €34,00
Editions Pierre de Taillac