Bibliothèque Historique de la Ville de Paris, is one of those rare and secret monuments in the Marais, where you can enter freely and consult magazines from a hundred years ago. And no one in Paris is aware of it. After two years of modernization, Emmanuelle Toulet, its director, was hosting three days of public visits and has decided to open the ground floor galleries to everyone. Some true chefs d’oeuvres are visible for at least two months at the time.`
The first ever metro ticket used on July 19, 1900, the first known menu in the world at restaurant des frères Véry on the Palais royal which dates from 1792, those are two of the treasures shown here for the reopening of the library. And mostly a new gallery of books that anyone can borrow or read freely while waiting for the rain to stop outside. This is the new philosophy of BHVP, a beautiful library located in the 16 th century Hôtel d’Angoulême Lamoignon, on rue Pavée. I looked at an old collection of Paris Match and discovered many old scandals…
Many directories and maps of Paris are also visible as is the fabulous painting “Vue de la place de la Bastille et de ses environs en 1889” by Eugène Bourgeois painted on an architectural drawing by Emile Hochereau. It was made to celebrate the 100th anniversary of the Revolution. It is a huge map of the Marais and part of the left bank done is such detail, that one can spend half an hour studying it. It is the pendant of another map made of the same area in 1789.
A book on “How to clean the streets of Paris” and another one on “Stationnement autorisé dans Paris” in 1884 show that nothing is new today! The last letter written by Camille Desmoulin to his wife Lucile before being guillotined shows the marks of his tears, a letter by Voltaire celebrating the liberty of religion, some glass plates of photos by Gustave Le Gray representing the Seine, the manuscript of L’Education sentimentale by Flaubert are all amazing. It took two years for Emmanuelle Toulet’s team to select what would be shown in the first exhibition and every item is a little treasure. We are far from boring bibliophily, as a little book called “Les Quatre As et le Picasso”, dedicated by Picasso himself in 1960 to his friend Jean Cocteau, will show.
An amazing poster of a “Misère Noire” ball at Théâtre des Champs Elysées on February 17, 1927, announcing a costumed ball with ballet des Poux et des Punaises (cockroach and flee ballet), and demanding that everyone dresses in “Misère noire”, black misery. The ball was forbidden by the Ministry of Interior in the end…
Upstairs a few books from the André Baudry collection of homosexual writings are exhibited. This entire “library” was given in 2016 by the founder (in 1954) of the first homosexual movement in France, Arcadie. It holds 630 books dedicated to Baudry by Roger Peyrefitte, Jean Louis Bory, Henry de Montherlant….
Thanks to the brilliant personality of its successive directors, the BHVP founded in 1763, has managed to concentrate over time, two million documents, including 200 000 postcards, 20 000 manuscripts and 500 000 photographs. All devoted to the city of Paris. It is a gold mine for researchers and holds the memory of our city.
Make sure to visit it next time you are in the Marais. The team is charming and you will see incredible documents. (24 rue Pavée)
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