A Parisian Cabinet of Curiosities: Deyrolle

This photo book (224 pages) was published in December of 2017 by Flammarion. The book takes you to an enchanting museum in Paris. Melissa read A Parisian Cabinet of Curiosities: Deyrolle and loved it; it wouldn't be on our site if she didn't recommend it.

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A Parisian Cabinet of Curiosities: Deyrolle

Prince Louis Albert de Broglie

Paris is a city filled with magical places. Deyrolle, a definition-defying hybrid of natural history museum and boutique, might be one of the most magical of all. Found on the rue de Bac since 1881, its two floors are filled with whimsical taxidermy, jewel-like butterfly and insect collections, and other natural objects.

This beautifully rendered hardback (with a slipcover!) has a satisfying heft — like something a Victorian might have passed down through the generations — and tells the history of Deyrolle through gorgeous color photos and conversational text. It’s like chatting with the curator as he shows you his favorite things.

Deyrolle was founded in 1831 by Emile Deyrolle, the fifth naturalist in his family. They published educational charts and books for other researchers and schools. Emile thought it was essential to engage kids’ curiosity while educating them, so all of the Deyrolle output came from a place of enthusiasm, a desire to inspire wonder.

Every page of this book is filled with that wonder.

Geometric compositions made from butterflies and insects look like images shot through a kaleidoscope. There’s a stuffed ostrich wearing aviator goggles and a full-sized unicorn with wings. On another page, a fuzzy monkey contemplates the skull he holds in his tiny hands. Another two-page spread features an assembled menagerie — a zebra, a tiger, a peacock in full vanity mode, a bear standing up like a man — in a room painted spring green, a gilded chandelier overhead with floor-to-ceiling windows that look out over the Paris street.

Providing captions and context for the images is the Deyrolle story — from its inception as an education company through the devastating 2008 fire that destroyed its collection and its subsequent restoration, thanks to the love and support of artists. There are also charming details about the institution’s relationship throughout the decades with filmmakers and artists, including Salvador Dali and Wes Anderson.

A trip to Paris is always a good idea, and visiting Deyrolle is a must. (Need more convincing? Almost everything in the place is for sale, and guests are invited to pet the animals!) But if you can’t get there in person, this lovely book is an enchanting way to pop into the shop in your imagination.

taxidermy tiger walking through a shop

butterflies and beetles arrange in a geometric pattern

Deyrolle is a cabinet of curiosities where each open drawer is a manifestation of the world. Curiosity does not clamor for fortune but demands something called wonder, which is much more precious. And in this one-of-a-kind boutique where everything coexists without excessive aesthetics and overstatement, it is not uncommon for a customer to cross boundaries, with a question leading them behind the counter, or even usurping the place of the employee who is never ruffled by interruptions. — Prince Louis Albert de Broglie

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From majestic (Michelangelo's David) to silly (a can of SPAM) and everything in between (taxidermy! historical costumes!), museums are a fantastic place to get curious. These books do the same, no travel required.
Humans have been collecting precious stuff to show their friends for millennia. In this episode, we discuss the first museum, explore Renaissance Wunderkammers, and celebrate all that makes museums so very awesome.
Humans have been collecting precious stuff to show their friends for millennia. In this episode, we discuss the first museum, explore Renaissance Wunderkammers, and celebrate all that makes museums so very awesome.

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