Printing and Bookstore - Expo Paris 1878

Printing and Bookstore at the Exhibition Expo Paris 1878

The class to which we have arrived - that of the printing and publishing industry - is, in our opinion, one of the most interesting; indeed, are not the publisher and the printer the distributors of that spiritual food which is indispensable to man because man does not live by bread alone? Are they not the happy and intentional disseminators of the moral clarity that is indispensable to man in order to conduct himself, to exercise his profession or his trade, and finally to be in a position to provide the share of work, of activity, of honest collaboration that society has the right, we would say the duty, to demand of each individual?

Well, although everyone is, we have no doubt, convinced of the truth of the above words, we find ourselves, to our great regret, obliged to recognise that not only has the printing and bookstore class not met with the eagerness on the part of the public to which it is obvious that it is entitled, but also that the administration has shown itself to be unkind towards it.

It seems that the organisers of the Exhibition said to themselves: - Let's not worry about the books, they will always find a place, we will put them on top of each other.

This is what happened, this poor ninth class was so badly set up, the display cases blended together so well that the public, frightened by this masterpiece of non-organisation, hurried past; if only they had preferred to take refuge in the tannery section.

Having said this with reason, we believe, and this complaint finally exhaled, let us endeavour to acquaint the reader with all the treasures that have spent six months in this part of the Champ de Mars.

The class we are looking at includes printing, but it is useful to specify clearly the point of view from which it will be judged.

Indeed, what we have before our eyes? printed works; whether or not the publisher is the printer, the sight of these works shows only the care taken by the publisher in the choice of paper, the vigilance he has taken in the choice of the printing method, and finally the taste he has brought to bear in the way he has had the binding and the cover made.

This is no doubt a lot, but it shows that it is not in the classroom where we are that we could appreciate what is called, strictly speaking, printing, but only in the classroom where we will see the tool machine working before our eyes.

Let's go through this exhibition now. The first thing that strikes you is the considerable improvements that have been made; in the last ten years, the book trade has been positively transformed.

One cannot believe how much taste has progressed, how much the making of books has improved, in spite of the tax on paper which weighs heavily on it, and the ever-increasing costs of printing.

A man who died in recent years, Mr. Pierre Jannet, the creator of the Bibliothèque elzévirienne, had a great part in this movement. It was he who, at a time when people were content with volumes composed of ugly-looking type, poorly printed on mediocre paper, had the idea of drawing inspiration from the ancient models bequeathed to us by the master printers of past centuries. This was the beginning of a sort of renaissance in French book publishing. The imperfect volumes we are talking about were replaced by more elegant, better printed books. This movement was not only felt in the works of amateurs, in the reprints of old authors; it was generalized and not even the rudimentary classical books did not change in appearance. Let us hasten to add, to be fair, that Hachette, where the material side of book production has always been in progress, has also had a very great influence on this happy trend. It was Hachette that introduced the practice of using illustrations and vignettes in profusion in all books. All the publishers, following in her footsteps, have taken better care of their publications, and, if the progress we are reporting continues, we will soon have nothing to envy the English, who produce such beautiful and cheap publications.

Let us first greet two publishers who are dear to all bibliophiles, and to all poets.

We have named M. Jouaust, who follows with dignity in the footsteps of his father, and M. Lemerre, the foster father of Parnasse.

The Jouaust house, which is now known as the bibliophile's bookshop, is constantly restoring the masterpieces of national literature, which it prints on vellum, in a special format, in a modest number of numbered copies.

Lemerre does not limit itself to publishing poets, but makes bibliophile editions for them. If you don't mind, friend reader, we will first liquidate the account of the big houses.


Here is Hetzel's shop window.

His Magasin illustré d'éducation et de récréation is famous; it already has twenty-six volumes.

How many beloved signatures have signed its pages!

Achard, Andersen, Mme Beecher-Stowe, Benedict, Mmo de Chenevières, MmeDesbordes-Valmore, Charles Dickens, Victor Cousin, Gustave Droz, Egger, Erkmann-Chatrian, Flammarion, de Gïamont, Henri Heine, Legouvé, Jean Macé, Mme Emmeline Raymond, Louis Ratisbonne, Elisée Reclus, Sainte-Claire Deville, Saint-Marc Girardin, P.- J. Stalh, Stephen de la Madeleine, Gaston Tissandier, Jules Verne.

For the authors, the artists who illustrated their prose are called: Riou, Serial, Baric, Clerget, Dantan, etc, etc.

How many volumes we would have to quote again, if we wanted to give a complete idea of all the delicious works called to delight childhood and youth by instructing and moralizing them!


The Firmin Didot bookshop exhibited in its compartment a certain quantity of magnificent volumes which everyone was anxious to leaf through.

We will quote among others a magnificent work in two volumes, large format, with sixty chromolithographs, without counting the engravings in the text: Paris through the ages, i.e. the successive aspects of the capital since the XIIIth century until our days.

The Bible, the 18th century by the bibliophile Jacob, Letters and Sciences in the Middle Ages, Joan of Arc, by H. Wallon, Jesus Christ, by Louis Veuillot, etc., etc.


The Hachette bookshop exhibits, among other things, its encyclopaedic dictionaries, notably the great dictionary by Littré, its Tour du Monde, its special libraries composed of so many excellent books, and its two great works in preparation: Boland furieux, illustrated by Gustave Doré, and the Récits des temps mérovingiens, so masterfully commented on by the compositions of Jean-Paul Laurens.

Next comes the very complete collection of all the didactic works concerning teaching at all levels, then the works of general literature, the collection of the works of the great writers of France, the scientific and historical publications, etc., the foreign novels, the books for children, etc., etc.


The Plon bookshop first shows us three major publications: the Archives nationales, the Collection des classiques français and the Bibliothèque historique.

Among the other works, we shall quote; Marie Stuart, by Chantelauze; Camille Desmoulins, by Jules Claretie; Stanislas-Auguste, Poniatowski and Madame Geoffrin, by Charles de Moüy; les Dépêches du chevalier de Gentz, by Count Prokesch-Osten; Un homme d'autrefois, by the Marquis Costa de Deauregard; the Memoirs of Madame d'Aulnay; the unpublished correspondence of the Marquise de Sabran and the Chevalier de Boufjlers; Un Patricien de Venise, by Charles Yriarte; KHistoire du Dépôt des archives des Affaires étrangères, by Armand Baschet; le Comte de Plélo, by Ra-thery; les Mémoires de Malouet; les Ducs de Guise, by Henri Forneron; le Cardinal de Bérulle, by Abbé Houssaye; le Département des Affaires étrangères pendant la Révolution, by Frédéric Masson ; le Comte de Cavour et la Guerre de France, by Charles de Mazade; Royalistes et Républicains, et le Parti libéral sous la Restauration, by Thureau-Dangin; l'Histoire diplomatique de la guerre, by Albert Sorel; les Deux Chanceliers, by J. Klaczko; l'Esprit révolutionnaire avant la Révolution, by F. Rocquain, etc.


This house, whose collection is important and whose reputation is long-standing, had at the Exhibition some interesting works, among others: the Esquisses parisiennes, by Théodore de Banville; the Histoire nouvelle des arts et des sciences; finally an interesting volume by Jules Arène: la Chine familière et galante.


M. Victor Palmé is the publisher of the Bollandists and directs the general society of Catholic bookshops.

We mention this house because of its commercial importance; but we will not enter into the details of its publications which are exclusively religious and theological.


The exhibition of Mr. Marne could not fail to be noticed; in terms of new publications, we have seen*the Life of Saint Elizabeth of Hungary, by the Count of Montalembert, and the Life of Saint Louis, by H. Vallon.

Marne prints and publishes a considerable number of cheap editions each year.


Both printer and publisher, Mr. Paul Dupont publishes educational and teaching works, administrative works and military works.


We owe a special mention to the Chaix company; this company, which is the central printing house of the railways and which was founded in 1853, has instituted a professional school on its premises, the aim of which is to train workers, foremen and employees for the various departments of the printing house. The company pursues this goal by methodical teaching of practical work, by primary and technical education, by the encouragement of savings, profit-sharing, the creation of pension funds, life and accident insurance. The vocational school comprises three groups: composers and lithographers; feeders and drivers; and children in the various departments: stationery, regulation, etc.

From the point of view of workers' institutions, the exhibition before us is no less interesting. The institutions founded for the welfare of the personnel are most complete. The central railway printing works is one of the few industrial companies that have established profit-sharing for their workers and employees. This institution was inaugurated in 1871, and the sum distributed from that time to 31 December 1877 has already reached the important figure of 333,655 fr. 87 c. A mutual aid fund has existed in the establishment since 1846, and spends from nine to ten thousand francs a year in subsidies allocated to the sick. The apprentices are the object of particular solicitude; a special profit-sharing fund, a school savings fund, and accident and life insurance have been founded for them.

The measures taken for ventilation, lighting, heating and general hygiene in the workshops are quite satisfactory. More than 500 accident-prevention devices have been fitted to printing presses, rolling mills and transmission belts. These provisions are completed by a system of instantaneous disengagement and alarm bell which, in the event of an accident, allows the victim to be freed very quickly.


This bookshop publishes classical and educational works. We will quote among others the books entitled: Premières notions d'Histoire naturelle, de Cosmographie, de Geométrie, les Menus propos sur les sciences, by M. Félix Hément; la Chimie agricole, la Physique, la Terre, le Ciel, les Ravageurs, les Auxiliaires, les Serviteurs,1a. Zoology, Botany, etc.


This company, which has only existed since 1870, deals exclusively with the publication of works for the use of primary, elementary and higher schools. The intelligence in the choice of collaborators, great vigilance in the execution of the work, and the modesty of its prices have earned it a well-deserved success in a short time and it can be justly proud of its sales figures:
In 1871-72, 60,000 volumes; in 1872-73, 150,000; in 1873-74, 240,000; in 1874-75, 340,000; in 1875-76, 578,000; in 1876-77, 1,050,000; 1877-78 (May), 1,390,000.

The Colin bookshop has also received awards of another kind.

It won successively :
A diploma of merit at the Vienna World Exhibition;
An honourable mention at the International Congress of Geographical Sciences;
An urgent medal (the highest award), two bronze medals, from the Society for Elementary Education (rue Haute-feuille, 1);
Two gold medals, one silver medal, from the Société des anciens élèves de l'École normale de Versailles;
The diploma of honour (the highest award) at the school exhibition in Çompiègne (1877);
A vermeil medal (the highest award), at the regional school exhibition in Versailles (1877).
Finally, at the 1878 Exhibition, the jury awarded him a silver medal.


However attractive our walk among the books may be, we must resign ourselves to shorten it and give a quicker look at the display cabinets we have not yet observed.

Baudry's polytechnic bookshop is recommended by its numerous works on architecture, archaeology and fine arts; others deal with mines and metallurgy, mechanics and machines, bridges and roads, railways, textile arts, etc., etc.

The Morel bookshop specialises in architecture, archaeology, fine arts and industrial arts.

Among the works it has exhibited, we note the Traité pratique de la construction moderne, by Mr. Léopold Lanck; les habitations modernes, by Mr. Viollet-Leduc, etc., etc.

The general library of architecture and public works, directed by M. Ducher, - who publishes, incidentally, a very interesting special journal: the Semaine des constructeurs, - shows us remarkable works, among others the Nouvel Opéra, by Charles. Garnier, les Halles centrales de Paris, by Victor Baltard, l'OEuvre de Boucher, l'histoire delà faïence de Rouen, etc., etc.

The Guillaumin economic bookshop, exhibits, in addition to the works of notable economists and publicists, the Journal des économistes, which constitutes the important publication of the house and is universally appreciated by specialists.

The Muzard et fils bookshop founded the Dépôt des lois et les actes du gouvernement.

In this house, one finds carefully classified edicts, rulings, letters-patents, laws, decrees, orders, and, in general, all the acts of the government, from the year 1200 to the present day.

The public can obtain there, by detached sheets :
1° The edicts, declarations, decrees, letters patent, from the year 1200 to 1789; 2° the laws, decrees, orders, opinions of the Council of State, etc., from the year 1789 to the present;

As well as all the statistical documents, surveys, reports, documents on the railways, etc., etc.

The bookshop of Mrs. Bouchard-Musard's widow (Jules Trembloy, successor) has reprinted a quantity of old works which are a delight to bibliophiles. We shall quote among others:
La Chasse royale, composée par le Roy Charles IX et dediée au Roy Tres-Chrestien Lovys XIII. Very useful for the curious and hunting enthusiasts. Small in-8° with plate.

Traicté et abrégé de la Chasse du Lieure et du Chevreuil, dédié av roy Lovis tresiesme du nom, roy de France et de Navare, par messire René de Maricourt, chevallier de l'Ordre du Roy, capitaine de cinquantes hommes d'armes pour le service de sa diète Majesté et gentilhomme de sa chambre, etc Published according to the original manuscripts. Small in-8° with coat of arms.

La noble et furieuse Chasse dv Loup, composed by Robert Monthois, arthisien, en faueur de ceux qui sont portez à ce royal déduict. In-4° with plate.
The Roret bookshop exhibits the complete collection of all its manuals, as well as its journal Le Technologiste, an archive of the progress of French and foreign industry, whose purpose is to make known, as soon as they appear, all the new discoveries and inventions of all the countries of the world.

Finally, let us mention the Dumaine military bookshop, the Baillière bookshop, which specialises in medical publications, Mr Reinwald's scientific bookshop, and interesting newspapers and publications, such as Vaugelas' Courrier and Mr Maury's Catalogue des timbres-poste.

The printing and bookstore exhibition includes, in addition to the works exhibited by printers and publishers, the submissions of type founders and also those of publishers and printers of prints. Thus, the houses of Lemercier, Chardon and Béquet let us admire their lithographic and intaglio prints; the house of J. Chéret, its dashing chromolithographic posters; Messrs Appel, Testu and Massin, their colour prints for the trade; Messrs Turlot and Deberny, their beautiful typefaces shining out of their foundry

To return to the printers who put their presses at the service of publishers and who thus collaborate in so many beautiful books, let us quote among the exhibitors M. Quantin, who supports by his good printings the old reputation of the Claye house, today in his hands; MM. Plon and Ce, who print so many remarkably well-crafted volumes by themselves; M. Chamerot, one of our best typographers; the Dalloz house, whose Monde illustré is so remarkably printed; M. Martinet, M. Crété, of Corbeil, and M. Charaire, of Sceaux, more particularly devoted to the printing of popular publications in large runs.

Among the provincial printers, we shall name among others: M. Hérissey, from Évreux, M. Danel, from Lille, who exhibits remarkable Chromotypographies, M. Monnoyer, from Le Mans, M. Gounouilhou, from Bordeaux, M. Chapoulaud, from Limoges.

Let us conclude with the illustrated popular publications.

Here we must ask the reader to stop in front of the window of the illustrated bookshop, which exhibits its interesting publications and in particular the Man who Laughs, by Victor Hugo.

A young master, Daniel Vierge, has made woodcuts for the illustration of this masterpiece, which are delicious in their conception and astonishingly fine in their execution: they almost look like etchings.


Everything is interesting in the Exhibition; French stationery occupies an important place, and it is certain that foreign competitors cannot compete with it. We must however, however attractive such a subject may be, confine ourselves to somewhat general considerations, so as not to tire the reader with too many technical details.

The role of paper is considerable today, and, -singularly. - It is at the moment when this role is becoming more pronounced that paper will almost cease to exist, and we will return, as it were, to the papyrus of the ancients.

The reader, in the course of our visit to the foreign sections, has seen how the shortage of raw material for making paper is met today.
Waste paper is insufficient, waste linen is lacking, so tree bark is used; this bark, when made into pulp, gives astonishing results, which we mentioned when we spoke of the Swedish-Norwegian exhibition. The papers made from fir and poplar pulp are remarkable.

The manufacture is becoming more important every day, because its use is now being applied to a number of purposes which would never have been imagined only ten years ago.

The Scientific-American had the curiosity to enumerate the objects that have been made with paper, and found this: - Candelabras, buckets, urns, jewels, curtains, belts, fireplaces, cornices, bath taps, shirts, and even clothes have been made of paper.

One of these days, perhaps, houses will be made of paper, and the rubble and ashlar that are no longer in use will be used to make paper.

How is paper made? We shall see, since we can see everything in this magnificent palace on the Champ de Mars.

M. d'Hervilly, in the Rappel, recounted with his usual verve the present biography of paper and compared the papers of different nations. Here are his words:
"Two magnificent paper-making machines, one French and one Belgian, are in daily operation at the Exposition. The public is watching with great interest the transformations that the pulp of rotten, frayed, bleached rags undergoes, which, spread with marvellous regularity on the wire forms, seized by the cylinders, cold or heated, pressed, dried, laminated, forms a continuous paper which is rolled up into a monstrous reel, or is offered to the cutting machine which methodically divides it into sheets.

"It should be remembered that the principle of the ingenious machine for making endless paper (it used to be made sheet by sheet), which is now universally used, is due to a French paper-maker, Robert, from Essonnes. This dates from 1789.

"At the Exhibition, one can see, as a sample of endless paper, for the use of newspaper printing houses, reels of 4 to 5,000 metres in length.

"More considerable ones could easily be made, and the Petit-Poucet, even with the help of the ogre's boots, would not reach the end in a day, but the handling of reels of this size would be awkward. We can easily agree.

"Among the papers exhibited at the Champ de Mars, the French and English products, white or tinted, of common use, are certainly those which take precedence over all the others, as regards solidity, equality of the pulp, tenacity, grain and brightness. The French large format papers are superb; the English vellums, shells, and cream-laids are admirable.

"Holland shows magnificent samples of her special manufacture, and her old fame is still perfectly justified. Its laid papers for prints, etchings, and luxury books, are the delight of bibliophile visitors and lovers of engravings, who still have, in China and Japan, many opportunities to be delighted. Japan, without abandoning the ancient ways of making the silky paper so highly prized in Europe, has kept pace with the West for stationery and envelopes. Indeed, in this section we see gummed quadrangular envelopes that look as if they came from London or Paris. Some fancy manufacturers, however, sow these envelopes with foliage in muted colours, which is a charming effect. While we are on the subject of artfully illustrated papers, let us mention the English japonesque paper, a vellum enamelled with flowers, drawings and birds, imitated from Japan, which enjoys great favour on the other side of the Channel.

"Before leaving England, let us mention his writing papers for Valentine's Day, a day of general correspondence between all lovers in Great Britain. These papers, which are used extensively by our neighbours, are decorated with numbers, holly branches and birds in chromolithography, framed with lace and gilded on the edge.

"Papers for the same purpose are manufactured in France. But, I confess, in the cheap production, our letters for promises and compliments do not equal, in grace and humour, the Valentines and Christmas tickets of the "perfidious Albion. Their colouring is rough, inharmonious. But, in decorated, luxury stationery, France is not outdistanced by any foreign manufacture. Charming things are being done elsewhere, not to mention England, which we have overtaken after imitating it. For example, Viennese letterheads, decorated with flowers, are quite pretty.

"Russia exhibits a strong commercial paper, watermarked or not, which is not very attractive to the eye. It has unattractive yellowish or greyish tones, and its appearance is rough. It is said to be very resistant.

"The Norwegian fir and poplar pulp paper, of which this nation exhibits many samples, is of card strength and a beautiful light buff colour.

"American papers have all the qualities of English papers. All the plants of the new world, with few exceptions, have been tried by the Americans for the manufacture of their printing paper. They have found admirable materials and their products are commendable for their strength, suppleness and gloss.

We thought it necessary to place this comparative study here; it seems to us, indeed, that in a work intended to perpetuate the memory of the Exhibition, the impartial comparison of international products is the useful and interesting point.

The reader will notice, moreover, that this comparison is far from being to our disadvantage.

The class which appears in the catalogue, under the single heading of stationery, comprises paper and stationery.

Paper is the primary product; stationery is its accessory.

Official documents provide interesting information on paper:
There are currently five hundred paper factories in France. There are 12 in the Ardèche, 39 in the Charente, 14 in the Drôme, 45 in the Isère, 29 in the Pas de Calais, etc.

These five hundred establishments employ 26,178 workers, including 10,000 women and 3,000 children; the total force of their machines is 21,368 horsepower.

The weight of paper produced can be estimated at about 1,600,000 francs.

The monetary figure, as of late, was one hundred and four million nine hundred and fifty-three THOUSAND FOUR HUNDRED AND FOURTEEN FRANCS.

It seems interesting to us to give here the last import and export statement. This statement dates from 1875.

Importation............ 17477.286 kilos.
Exportation..............10,243,892 "

Import............ 2,129,959 francs.
Export........... 14,701,186 "

Since we are putting down figures, let's give those concerning bookbinding.

Bookbinding comprises three specialities: -art binding, library binding, bookshop and trade binding:
Number of patterns............... 4,000
"Number of workers................ 5,008
"Number of female workers............... 3,000
"apprentices. ............. 2,000

The men earn about 5 francs a day; the women earn about 3 francs; the apprentices' wages vary from 50 cents to 2.50 francs.

The last recorded turnover for bookbinding was ten million.

The most remarkable exhibitions were certainly those of Isère (collective exhibition), that of MM. Laroche frères, and those of the Sociétés anonymes êtes papeteries de Montyon, des papeteries du Marais and de Sainte-Marie.

The Société anonyme des Cartonneries Ardennaises exhibited an excellent cardboard for bookbinding.

In short, the industrial and luxury paper industries were represented at the Champ de Mars Palace in such a way as to prove that France can compete with other countries in this field.

As far as bookbinding is concerned, we do not have the solidity of the English product, and it is to be assumed that we could not produce at the same quality and under the same cheap conditions.

We will mention with pride the splendid library of Mr. Lortic.

It contains a whole collection of luxury bindings from the 13th to the 17th century.

The amateurs could not take their eyes off this real treasure which represents a value of more than four hundred thousand francs.

All in all, a good exhibition.

Of special interest is class II (the usual application of art, literature and plastic arts), which includes architects, interior and monumental decorators, theatre decorators and costume designers, designers for fabrics, cloth and embroidery, wallpapers, carpets, and map makers, engravers and lithographers; fan and screen painters; heraldic and manuscript painters, ornamental sculptors and moulded objects.

Among the principal curiosities of this exhibition, where industrial art shows such an incontestable superiority, we shall mention the copy of the Danse Macabre, from the abbey of La Chaise-Dieu, by Mme Bellom, the heraldic paintings by M. Boutou's heraldic paintings, samples of all the fabrics (silk, wool and cotton) from 1830 to the present day, M. Caulo's heliographic engravings in hollow and in relief, M. Guichard's decorative panels, based on the tapestries in the furniture repository, etc.

But the great attraction of this class was certainly the theatrical exhibition.

We will therefore devote a special chapter to it.


The Minister of Public Education had the excellent idea of exhibiting in two small rooms, one to the south and the other to the north of the Rue des Nations, on the left-hand side, a certain number of models representing theatrical scenes which success has made historic; each of these scenes is framed by a Harlequin cloak and receives light from above, which produces a stage illusion of striking effect.

This exhibition, of genuine and unusual interest, was due to the intelligent initiative of Messrs Nuitter, archivist of the Opéra, and de Watteville, director of science and literature at the Ministry of Public Instruction, with the help of the best set painters attached to the Opéra stage: Messrs Duvignaud, Levastre, Chéret, Gabin, Daran, Garperat and Cambon.

These models reproduced the main scenes of the following plays:

La Folie de Clidamant, a tragi-comedy by Hardy, given in 1619 at the Théâtre de l'hôtel de Bourgogne; l'Hypocondriaque, a tragi-comedy by Rotrou, given in 1631 on this same stage; l'Illusion comique, by Th. Corneille, given in 1630 at the same theatre; Lisandre et Caliste, a tragi-comedy by Duryer, 1636, Théâtre-Français; la Finta Pazza, a lyrical comedy by Balbi, 1646, Italian Opera, Salle du Petit-Bourbon; Athis, lyrical tragedy by Quinault and Lulli, at the French Opera, Palais-Royal, in 1676; same stage, 2nd act of Psyché, lyrical tragedy by Corneille and Lulli; same theatre, 5th act of Armide (1686), lyrical tragedy by Quinault and Lulli; Psyché, comedy-ballet by Molière and Corneille, 1687, Théâtre-Français, salle delà rue Mazarine; 5th act of Hécube, opera by Fontenelle and Milcent, year VIII of the Republic, at the Opéra, salle de la rue Richelieu; Guillaume Tell, 1st act, 1829, at the Opéra, rue Lë Peletier; same theatre, 3rd act of Robert le Diable, 1831; same theatre, 2nd act of Don Juan, 1834; same theatre, 2nd act of Les Huguenots, 1836; id. , 3rd and 4th acts of the Queen of Cyprus, 1841; id. the Freyschütz, 2nd act, 1841; id. 1st act of Hamlet, 1868; id. 3rd act of Faust, 1869, at the new Opera; 4th act of Jeanne d'Arc, 1876; id. 1st act of Sylvia, 1876; 1st and 2nd acts of the King of Lahore, 1877; id. 1st and 2nd acts of the Fandango, 1877

This exhibition, which is like a chronological review of the progress of dramatic painting, is completed by a collection of original models of the costumes of the Opera since its foundation, a model representing one of the main scenes of the Mystery of the Passion, a reproduction of the stage of the ancient theatre of Orange, etc.

The newspaper La République française, in its issue of 16 October last, published an excellent article on the theatrical exhibition, which we shall reproduce:
The author of a dramatic work always indicates in a general way where the action takes place and how the places where the characters are to move are arranged. But what an abyss between these vague indications and the living spectacle developed on a stage where the actors, the words and the scenery adapt so perfectly to each other that they can no longer be conceived separately! The creation of this ensemble is the director's own work, and he must use a wide variety of means to achieve it.

When a play is being studied, the general setting of each act is determined according to the author's indications, and to get a good idea of all the stage plays, one is not satisfied with a drawing. A scale model of the set with all its details, as it is intended to be built, is constructed from cut-out and painted cardboard. This model is very similar to the small puppet theatres given to children: it is called the Maquette. All those who are to take part in the performance of a play gather in front of this model to criticise it. Only when it has passed this test do the painters execute it in large scale on huge canvases spread out on the ground.

In 1864,1e. Grand-Opéra de Paris organised an archive where models of all the decorations, made to a uniform scale of three centimetres to the metre, were to be kept. This curious collection gave the director of science and literature, M. de Watteville, the idea of organising a theatrical exhibition where a whole series of similar models, at the same scale, representing the history of theatrical decoration in France, would be placed alongside these opera models. A learned reconstruction of the ancient theatre, of which we have already spoken, was also included.

It is Mr. E. Perrin, administrator of the Théâtre-Français, who has been specially charged with directing the restitution of the ancient sets. Thanks to his care and the skill of the two artists who worked under his direction, Messrs Duvignaud and Gabin, we now have a veritable historical gallery in which the theatre of our fathers is resurrected before our eyes.

The series naturally begins with the mysteries of the Middle Ages, which generally represent scenes from the life of Jesus Christ or from the early days of Christianity. The mystery of the Passion, called the Valenciennes mystery because it was performed in that town in 1547 in front of the church of Saint-Nicolas, has been chosen as the type. There are three manuscripts of this mystery: the first is in the Bibliothèque nationale; the second in the Valenciennes library; the third belongs to Mme la marquise de la Coste, who lent it to be placed at the theatrical exhibition.

At the head of this manuscript is a large gouache drawing, very well executed, which represents, to borrow the words of the legend: "The theatre or hourdement as it was when the mystery of the Passion of Our Lord Jesus Christ was dedicated. A° 1347. " The manuscripts do not indicate the exact dimensions of this wooden theatre; but the height of the steps and seats made it possible to calculate them approximately. It was thus possible to construct a beautiful and curious model at the prescribed scale of three centimetres to the metre.

It is clear that the theatre was uncovered; one can even see the buildings that framed it in the background, above the scenery. The stage is two or three times larger than in our modern theatres, and at the same time it represents the different places where the action is to take place. Thus, on the left and in the background, we see Jerusalem, the Temple, the Palace, Nazareth, the house of the bishops, the sea, Paradise, and many other things. On the right, an enormous fish head represents the entrance to Hell: it opens up to vomit out the devils and swallow up the wicked; its proportions are large enough for the actors to enter and leave it standing up. Thanks to this arrangement of the stage, the spectators could see at the same time what was happening in heaven, in hell and on earth.

The machinery was powerful and ingenious. The draughtsman could neither reproduce nor explain all the changes made before the public's eyes; but the manuscript displayed next to the model completes it by explaining all these "beautiful secrets. Thus, in Paradise, a golden ray was constantly revolving behind the head of God the father. When the devils came out of hell, they were surrounded by fire and smoke, and Lucifer even threw flames out of his mouth. At the nativity of Jesus Christ, angels were seen flying through the air, singing and waving flames. At the massacre of the innocent, blood was seen flowing from their bodies. In another place, Satan kidnapped Jesus by crawling against a wall up to fifty feet high. The miracle of the wedding at Cana took place before the eyes of the public, who were even invited, as today with the conjurers at fairs, to taste the water turned into wine. The multiplication of the loaves of bread was performed and proven in the same way; we can even suppose that they were thrown to the public, as is done by Robert Houdin for children's toys, for, after having said that more than a thousand people ate them, the author of the manuscript adds that twelve baskets full of them were collected.

These large mystery performances, distinct from the smaller ones annexed to the religious festivals, were motivated by the great public solemnities of which they seem to form the obligatory accompaniment. A deal was then made with a brotherhood or a vagabond troupe, which submitted the "pourtraicts" of its theatre to the magistrates in advance. It is even possible that the drawing in our manuscript is a 'pourtraict' of this kind, as it was illuminated by a man named Hubert Cailliau, who had played several roles in the Valenciennes mystery. For this mystery, the hoardings, accoustrements and other utensils had been bought by the actors themselves; it had cost them 4,179 livres and some sols. They were then resold for 728 liv. 12 sols. Each spectator paid 6 deniers to occupy a place on a special scaffolding. The performances lasted twenty-five days, and the total takings reached 4,880 liv. 14 sols. This was a net profit of more than 1,230 livres for the sixty-five actors who took part in the performance. The directors of the Valenciennes theatre would like to obtain similar results today.

Next to the large model of the Valenciennes mystery is a group of characters representing a Spanish mystery scene and belonging to Miss Agar.

Further on, one notices some curious wooden statuettes lent by M. de Liesville. These are the classic characters of Italian comedy, Harlequin, Brighella, Pantalon, the Bolognese doctor, who preceded the first sedentary national theatre in France, that of the Hôtel de Bourgogne.

The theatre of the Hôtel de Bourgogne was located in the rue Mauconseil, in an outbuilding of the old Hôtel de Bourgogne. One of the companies that performed mysteries, the Confrères de la Passion, had moved there in 1548. Later, they ceded their hall and their privilege to a troupe of French actors who were to play a considerable role in the literary history of the period.

There is no known plan of the Theatre of the Hôtel de Bourgogne at the beginning of the 17th century; but there is one from a later period, when Italian actors had replaced the French actors who had emigrated to the Rue Mazarine, and it is according to this plan that our first French theatre has been reconstructed. As for the sets, the National Library has a precious manuscript in the La Vallière collection that allowed them to be faithfully reproduced. It is a memoir by Laurent Mahelot, continued by Michel Laurent.

The first part of this memoir contains descriptions of the sets and a list of accessories for seventy-one plays by Hardy, Rotrou, Scudéry, Duryer, Ben-serade, Corneille and a host of other authors. Forty-seven of these theatrical descriptions are accompanied by drawings which reproduce the sets in a complete manner. Four of these plays have been chosen to build a model of them as is done today.

The oldest is Hardy's Folie de Clidamant, which was performed around 1619 (the date is not known precisely). The stage is still arranged according to the same principles as for the mysteries; it represents at the same time the various places where the action is to take place. On the left is a ship with masts, in which a woman appears, throwing herself into the sea; in the background, a beautiful palace with a throne; on the right, a room that opens and closes, with a bed covered with sheets. In such a system of decoration, changes of scenery were unnecessary to express changes of place; the actors had only to move from one side of the stage to the other.

Although Laurent Mahelot's manuscript was not unknown, this curious peculiarity of our first French theatre had not been noticed until now. It is of great importance from the point of view of literary history. The severe unity of place which was soon to characterise our classical tragedies was above all a reaction against the barbaric system of simultaneous places which made all illusion impossible for the spectator?

Was this unity of place introduced by the Spanish plays which had such a great influence on the beginnings of our classical theatre? This is not yet known, for the commission has searched in vain for the system by which these Spanish plays were staged.

The second model of the theatre of the Hôtel de Bourgogne represents Hypochondriaque, or the Loving Death, a tragi-comedy by Ro-trou, performed in 1631, about twelve years after the Folie de Clidamant. In the middle of the theatre is a funeral chamber with three tombs surrounded by candles. This chamber must open or close according to the needs of the action. One side of the stage shows a beautiful house with two pulpits and, in the fourth act, a tree is added to which a page must be tied. The other side shows a wood, a cave and a grass carpet on which a lady is resting. The accessories include sheets in which shadows are to be wrapped. It can be seen that this decoration still belongs to the system of simultaneous places.

With the third model, that of the Illusion comique, dated 1636, we arrive at the great Corneille. But the staging is still very confused. On one side of the theatre there is a park, and on the other a magician's den on top of a mountain. Moreover, Mahelot's manuscript lists the props represented in the first act as follows: "A night, a walking moon, nightingales, an enchanted mirror, a wand for the magician, a ciprez hat for the magician, etc." The fourth model belongs to a play by the same name.

The fourth model belongs to a play by Duryer, Lisandre et Caliste, of the same year 1636; but the decoration is terribly confused to represent at once the most diverse places. There is, however, from the first act to the second, a fairly well-combined change of scene.

Theatre historians had disdainfully forgotten these barbaric plays which preceded the great era of Corneille, Molière and Racine. They were, however, worthy of interest in certain respects, and the four models restored under the direction of M. Perrin have certainly done more for them than the publication of a large book.

When the French comedians were commissioned by the king, they performed in the Petit-Bourbon theatre, situated on the site where the colonnade of the Louvre was later erected, opposite Saint-Germain-l'Auxerrois. The entire hall was eighteen toises long and eight wide, and at one end was the stage which, with its backstage area, occupied the entire width. In 1653, it was given to Italian actors, who alternated with Molière's troupe, and it was demolished in 1660.

In 1645, Mazarin had a play entitled La Finta Pazza performed on this theatre by Italian actors, which was not yet an opera, but rather a comedy mixed with song and dance. The model of this play was built according to the original drawing of the decoration which exists in the National Archives.
This decoration is the work of an Italian artist, Torelli. At the time, Italian decorators were considered far superior to the French dabblers who worked for the Hôtel de Bourgogne. The model of the Finta Pazza seems to justify this opinion.

In the midst of a great luxury of scenery, one finds a true understanding of the stage and a skilful use of sight changes.

The only drawing representing the Comédie-Française theatre in the rue Mazarine belongs to an Italian artist, Pizzoli. It is a set prepared for the revival of Corneille and Molière's Psyché in 1685. It has made it possible to determine the dimensions of this theatre, which were not known exactly until now.

Moreover, almost all the sets were made by Italian artists, especially at the Opera, which, under the direction of Lulli, was developing more and more the luxury of staging. This vogue continued in the 18th century. It is to one of these Italian artists that we owe a real revolution in the general layout of the decor. Until 1730, the scenery on both sides of the stage moved towards the back and the ceiling was lowered in the same way, so that the stage looked like a horn seen from the large end. Servandoni imagined narrowing the first planes and spreading the last ones out at the top and on the sides. This new arrangement greatly enlarged the scene and made it appear to the eye to be even larger than it was. It is to this simple idea that the staging owes the enormous development that it has taken in our days. Unfortunately, no authentic drawings of Servandoni's creations have survived, so that only works by his pupils have been placed at the theatre exhibition.

©Les Merveilles de l'Exposition de 1878