of the Vernon Duke Collection
A Record of Change
UCR Library’s Special Collections Department
possesses an extensive research collection of materials
on the history of Paris, acquired in 1979 from the
estate of songwriter Vernon Duke, best known for “April
in Paris.” The Vernon Duke is comprised of some
800 books and a series of rare folio-sized maps and
other documents. The city of Paris has a long history,
but it can be argued that the consciousness of Paris
as a site of urban development begins in the mid-eighteenth
century. The Vernon Duke Collection is especially rich
in chronicles, maps, guidebooks and other studies of
life and manners in Paris, dating from the reign of
Louis XVI to the end of the belle époque. One
would have to go to the Musée Carnavalet in
Paris to find a more comprehensive collection of original
documents from this crucial time in the development
Treasures of the Vernon Duke Collection
Though this exhibition displays numerous examples
(mainly visual) from the Vernon Duke Collection, we
display here a few unusual and significant books from
its holdings. These books—all contemporary accounts
of Paris before, during, and after Balzac’s time—offer
a microcosm of the collection.
- The print shops of pre-Revolutionary Paris gave
rise to two extraordinary commentaries on daily
life in the Paris of the 1780s and 1790s, those of
Mercier and of Restif de la Bretonne.
Parisian Night Owl: Nicolas Restif de la Bretonne
(1734-1806), novelist, journalist, and social theoretician,
is in many ways an extraordinary figure in French
letters. The Vernon Duke Collection’s fine
set of his Les Nuits de Paris, ou le spectateur
volumes, were published anonymously in London, 1788,
with a 15th volume published in Paris in 1790. A
reader of fashionable novels of the time, from Rousseau
Laclos, would have little idea of the multiple activities
and industries depicted by Restif from his unique
point of view: that of nocturnal wanderer in the
- Essais historiques
de Paris, par Monsieur de Saint-Foix, cinquième
edition (Paris : chez la veuve Duchene), 1776.
- Paris, ou le livre des cent-et-un, in 14 volumes
(Paris : Chez Lavocat, libraire), 1834.
- Quinze jours à Paris,ou Guide de l’étranger
dans la capitale et ses environs (Paris : Chaumerot),
- The Parks, Promenades, and Gardens of Paris, by
W. Robinson, F.L.S. (London: John Murray), 1869.
THE TRAVELER: 1814-1848
PLUS A LEAP INTO THE FUTURE
The Vernon Duke Collection is rich in guide books
written in French and English that describe the physical
and institutional landscape of Paris during the period
when Balzac was creating his fictional Paris. Scholars
would profit from comparing Balzac’s description
of a given place or institution, with accounts of these
same places in such guidebooks, written for the most
part for the edification of travelers and tourists.
Tourism was already becoming an industry toward the
middle of the 19th century.
In many cases, in terms of fact, descriptions in the
guide books overlap with those in Balzac. The difference
in tone and perspective however gives a good sense
of the particularity of Balzac's vision. Balzac sees
Paris, its streets and quarters and public buildings,
through the eyes of characters for whom Paris is a
place of struggle, as if the material properties of
Paris were at one and the same time the prize to be
gained, and the impediment to attaining that prize.
In Balzac, monuments are emblems of power, and of envy.
There are no tourists in Balzac's world.
- 1814: Paris in Eighteen Hundred and Two and Eighteen
Hundred Fourteen, Reverend William Shepherd (London:
Longman, Hurst, et. al), 1814.
- 1826 : Paris, Tableau Moral et Philosophique,
par M. Fournier-Verneuil (Paris, 1826).
- 1830 : Voyage à Paris, ou Esquisses
des hommes et des choses dans cette capitale, par le
Marquis Louis Ranier Lafranchi (Lepetit: Paris),
- 1836: Paris and the Parisians in 1836,
Frances Trollope, author of “Domestic Manners
of the Americans” (Baudry’s European Library:
- 1848 : Quinze ans à Paris (1832-1848);
Paris et les Parisiens, Charles Forster (Paris: Frimin
Didot Frères), 1848.
- 1848 : Quinze jours à Paris,
ou guide de l’étranger dans la capitale
et ses environs, tableau synoptique et pittoresque,
par Marin (Paris : Chaumerot , Libraire-éditeur,
- 3000 : Paris depuis
ses origines jusqu’en l’An 3000, Léo
Clarette (Charavay Frères & Cie, éditeurs,
Paris), as expected, no date.