Art, Culture, Visit & Exhibition

Versailles delivers its secret “Library Treasures”

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Dive into the corridors of time. The invitation cannot be refused when it comes to exploring a prestigious place. The cherry on the crown: in a royal city! We had the privilege of exploring the former Foreign Affairs and Navy Hotel. This listed historic monument contains more than 55000 works as precious as they are ancient. They are the property of the Versailles library.

From one end to the other of its walls, dizzyingly high, stands a jealously guarded fund, by a discreet fence, closed with a double lock. Here, the book does not lend itself. We contemplate it like a relic. THE publishing world has never been a long, quiet river. Its history is written in the ink of controversy, blood and prosecution. The exhibition entitled “Treasures from the libraries of Versailles” teaches us. It reveals unpublished pieces of which there is sometimes only one copy in the world! This is the case of the original edition of Don Quixote presented under glass. 

The event exhibition gives access to the most sulphurous notebooks and books that made a big splash in their time. This is the case of Cimbalum Mundi, signed work Bonaventure des Périers, a book with a cursed destiny, whose author committed suicide. A sulphurous book for its time, it would then be subject to destruction, on the orders of Francis Ier. The copy exhibited here is the one found in the library of Louis XVI during his arrest under the French Revolution.

A journey through the history of treasures at Versailles


The exhibition, with its unsuspected wealth of heritage, guides us step by step. Or ? At the heart of the mysteries of publishing. But as a preamble, it is necessary see the oldest works in the library : a selection of cuneiform tabletss and ancient coins. Then the so-called room of the Powers of Italy questions the place of the author. Every bookish adventure begins like this: with the author. Authors are referred to in the plural: the most famous, as well as the amateurs.

The second room opens with a notion inseparable from the first: the source. This is the opportunity to lift the veil on the collections bequeathed by the industrialist Jean Lebaudy to the city of Versailles. In particular, there is a question of notebooks Mme de Pompadour, of Montespan and Barry… The France room presents only editorial rarities, from the XNUMXth to the XNUMXth century. The following rooms are dedicated to aesthetics works and the splendor of graphic artss. 

The journey ends in apotheosis: the forgery and the erroneous provenance ! To illustrate these considerations, what could be better than the affair of two twin rings Diana the Huntress. Featuring an agate on gold, one was given by Clémenceau who would have worn it on the day of the signing of the 1919 Treaty of Versailles. To discover the fate of the other ring, nothing beats a detour to Versailles...So many mysteries to unravel, at the central library foreign affairs gallery.

Exhibition “Treasures of the Libraries of Versailles”, to be discovered at 5, rue de l’Independance Americaine – 78000 Versailles. From September 16 to 16 December 2023Free access.


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