The other night I was over at my friend’s house in the Adams Morgan neighborhood of Washington, DC for her going away party and saw this map hanging on the wall.
Isola d’Elba aka the Island of Elba is an island in Tuscany, Italy, 20 kilometres (12 mi) from the coastal town of Piombino. It is the largest island of the Tuscan Archipelago, located between the Tyrrhenian Sea and Ligurian Sea, and the third largest island in Italy after Sicily and Sardinia. This map shows the island with various cities, embellishments of fruit, flowers, & fish, important mountains on the island, and at the top of the map there is an iconic graphic of Napoleon Bonaparte riding a horse.
I first read about the Island of Elba when I was learning about French emperor Napoleon I in high school. Following the Treaty of Fontainebleau, Napoleon was exiled to Elba after his forced abdication in 1814 and arrived at Portoferraio (near the steamboat on the map) on May 3, 1814. He stayed on Elba for only 300 days and returned to France only to be exiled again to the far more distant Island of Saint Helena.
Below is a Library of Congress copy of a British engraving depicting Napoleon’s banishment to Elba in 1814:
It’s titled “The journey of a modern hero, to the island of Elba” and says at the bottom:
Farewell my brave soldiers, my eagles adieu;
Stung with my ambition, o’er the world ye flew:
But deeds of disaster so sad to rehearse
I have lived–fatal truth for to know the reverse.
From Moscow to Lipsic; the case it is clear
I was sent back to France with a flea in my ear.
A lesson to mortals regarding my fall:
He grasps at a shadow, by grasping at all.
My course it is finish’d my race it is run,
My career it is ended just where it begun.
The Empire of France no more it is mine.
Because I can’t keep it I freely resign.
Coming from the butt of the donkey is the text: “The greatest events in human life is turn’d to a puff.” Coming from the broken sword is the text: “A throne is only made of wood and cover’d with velvet.” Written on the saddle are two phrases: “The budget of Mathematical books for my study at ELBA.” & “Materials for the history of my life and exploits.”
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