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7 May 2017 / leggypeggy

Books, science and globes—all in one place

Globes of Coronelli

Australia is mostly there on Coronelli’s terrestrial globe

Bibliothèque Nationale de France

Two of the four towers that surround a one-hectare garden. I’m at the other end with my back to the other two towers

Our plane landed in Paris early Thursday morning and we were determined to stay awake as long as we could in order to set a new time routine. It seemed to be a challenge. We’d flown over eight time zones and were faced with the prospect of a cool and wet day in Paris. Luckily our daughter, Libby, presented us with a list of rainy-day activities to keep us occupied while she went to work.

Most listings were for museums we hadn’t seen before, but one destination offered the greatest temptation—the National Library of France.

Australia has a wonderful national library with regular exhibitions, so we dumped our bags, had a quick shower and some food, and headed out to explore part of the French equivalent.

Known officially as the Bibliothèque Nationale de France, the library is composed of seven separate sites and we went to the largest, the François-Mitterrand Library, which opened in 1996.

Transport display

It was fantastic to walk around the library, but the big bonus was the free exhibitions on display. The first to catch our attention was the Science for All 1850–1900. It covers the array of scientific subjects being studied during the last half of the 19th century.

The exhibit is pitched at high school age, so our French was good enough to make out most of the explanations. We got a kick out the drawing showing an experiment to see how electric shocks affected the body. The guinea pig was a woman, but all the spectators were men. Or perhaps she was in charge.

This exhibit continues until 27 August.

But two large globes were the most unexpected and rewarding exhibit we saw, and one that neither of us had ever heard of.

Venetian cosmographer Vincenzo Coronelli designed the globes in Paris between 1681 and 1683. Jean-Baptiste Corneille and Jean-Baptise Franquelin were two of the most important artists to illustrate them. One depicts the celestial sky with all the constellations known at the birth of Louis XIV. The other is terrestrial and gives a complete cartography of the world at the time (California is shown as an island).

The Cardinal of Estrées offered both pieces to King Louis XIV at the end of the 17th century.

Measuring measure 3.8 metres in diameter and weighing about 2 tons each, the two spheres are the most monumental pieces in the library’s collection. They have been in the collection since the 18th century, but were rarely shown until they went on permanent display in 2006.

We had the luxury of walking round and round both globes, but the lighting was low, which meant I couldn’t photograph all the angles. In fact, we initially thought they were copies of the originals but, no, we were looking at pieces created more than 330 years ago.

More about the Bibliothèque Nationale de France
The library itself is an unusual and impressive structure. It consists of four towers, with each representing an open book. The towers are connected by outdoor platforms, and surround a one-hectare garden. Architect Dominique Perrault designed the complex. He was selected at the end of an international competition organised in 1989.

If you’re a numbers person here are some of the stats. Each tower is 80 metres tall with 22 floors. There are 60,000 square metres of platforms, 57,000 square metres of book stacks, and 54,000 metres of reading rooms. The library holds 14 million documents or 400 linear kilometres of stacks.

Admission is free (except for a couple of special exhibits).

Coronelli's celestial globe

The celestial globe depicts the constellations


Leave a Comment
  1. neveradullbling / May 7 2017 3:12 am

    Wow, it’s incredible. Have a fabulous visit!

    Liked by 3 people

  2. beetleypete / May 7 2017 3:40 am

    A great start to your tour, Peggy, and a good choice away from the usual sights too.
    Best wishes, Pete.

    Liked by 3 people

  3. ralietravels / May 7 2017 5:19 am

    Very interesting. I wonder how many French have seen those globes.

    Liked by 2 people

    • leggypeggy / May 7 2017 5:44 am

      I’m guessing a lot now, but maybe not a lot in the past.


  4. forwardtogloryquartet / May 7 2017 5:40 am

    It looks spectacular. I’ve only seen it from afar. I visited the old site, which was a fabulous building. The new library was heavily criticized as being a gigantic ego trip for Mitterrand, as one of his ‘Grands-Projets’ (sp?). It looks infinitely better than the dreary and horribly disappointing British Library. I take it the BN is closed stacks, like the BL? Thanks for the tour, Peggy!

    Liked by 2 people

    • leggypeggy / May 7 2017 5:46 am

      The BNF is the perfect place for the globes, and they are beautifully presented. And yes, I think the stacks are closed. Gates to every reading room. Not sure what you need to do to get in as we didn’t try. But the place was very busy.

      Liked by 1 person

  5. marple25mary / May 7 2017 6:31 am

    Wow! What a wonderful place. It looks like paradise to me. 🙂

    Liked by 2 people

  6. Phyllis Gaetz / May 7 2017 6:38 am

    Will have to put that on my bucket list Peggy. Thanks for the write up.

    Liked by 2 people

    • leggypeggy / May 7 2017 3:15 pm

      You are most welcome Phyllis. Now we have to figure out how and when we can travel together again. 🙂


  7. mistermuse / May 7 2017 7:22 am

    That stuff is all well and good, but does the BNF hold used book sales like they do at my local library?

    Just kidding — sounds like an extremely interesting place to spend a rainy day (or even a sunny one). 🙂

    Liked by 3 people

    • leggypeggy / May 7 2017 3:17 pm

      A used-book sale is a darned good idea. Next time Libby visits the library I’ll send a note with her to put in the suggestion box! 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

  8. Dorothy / May 7 2017 7:52 am

    Well the Maori would have preferred the map to stay that way. It does not show New Zealand at all. Would have saved a lot of trouble if Cook had not found it. I am glad they did though, I love living here.

    Liked by 3 people

    • leggypeggy / May 7 2017 3:19 pm

      New Zealand is wonderful place and, yes, it does get on the globe, but only just. To the right and down from Australia there’s a white spot that is the top of the north island. Tasmania is there too just below Australia.


  9. The Year I Touched My Toes / May 7 2017 9:24 am

    Peggy what material are the globes made out of? they look beautiful. I love old posters too. Louise

    Liked by 2 people

    • leggypeggy / May 7 2017 3:25 pm

      Good question, Louise, and I should have added that to the post. The designs are watercolour painted on to a plaster ball. Other materials mentioned include brass, wood and canvas. No others are stated, but their are likely to be more.


  10. gerard oosterman / May 7 2017 9:29 am

    Amazing bibliotheque. France must be beautiful right now, especially Paris. The atmosphere must be electric with voting to start in a few hours time. Ah, the passion of the French for their country. En marche!
    Helvi and I will have a croissant instead.

    Liked by 3 people

    • leggypeggy / May 7 2017 3:29 pm

      Voting is today and everyone we’ve talked to has their fingers crossed for a sensible outcome. And I’m sure Paris will be much more beautiful once the rain stops and it warms up! Today will be 17°C with rain. Tomorrow will be 14°C. Wednesday will be 19°C, but we’ll be in Helsinki by then for a high of 6°C. Why didn’t I bring gloves?

      Liked by 3 people

      • gerard oosterman / May 7 2017 4:13 pm

        You and John might like to brush up on “hyvaa paivaa” (good day) or huomentaa ( good morning) when in Helsinki. On the other hand, they all speak English.

        Liked by 1 person

      • leggypeggy / May 7 2017 4:37 pm

        Thanks for those phrases, Gerard. We’re very lucky in that on the first night we’ll be staying with the family of one of our former exchange students. They stayed with us in Australia some years back and now we’ll be able to see their territory. They’re going to give us lots of advice about our eight days of self-drive around Finland.

        Liked by 2 people

      • gerard oosterman / May 8 2017 10:43 am

        You will love Finland, especially now in spring. You will appreciate Sibelius even more, especially “The Swan of Tuonela.” If you get anywhere near Kokkola, that’s where Helvi comes from. I lived in Finland for 6 months.

        Liked by 1 person

      • leggypeggy / May 8 2017 3:31 pm

        We are so looking forward to seeing Finland. I just wish the forecast temperatures will rise above 7°C.


  11. Alison and Don / May 7 2017 11:13 am

    Those globes are quite wonderful.

    Liked by 4 people

  12. Colors of my life / May 7 2017 1:27 pm

    Very interesting, I always get something informative from your blogs

    Liked by 4 people

  13. Shiva Malekopmath / May 7 2017 2:47 pm

    Going free of cost with YOU visiting places all over the World.
    Thanks for taking Me over this Free Trip.
    My best wishes to your daughter. When you have your daughter to plan a trip, nothing like that…👌👍👏

    Liked by 2 people

    • leggypeggy / May 7 2017 3:32 pm

      It’s always great to have travelling companions. Libby is a good organiser, but I wish she could control the weather too. Right now it’s cold and rainy in Paris. 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

  14. Eddy Winko / May 7 2017 3:22 pm

    The numbers are boggling, but knowing they were the original globes, wow!

    Liked by 3 people

    • leggypeggy / May 7 2017 3:33 pm

      You’ve got that right. Knowing these exquisite pieces are originals is the most humbling.

      Liked by 1 person

  15. Brian Lageose / May 7 2017 4:18 pm

    So very, very jealous right at the moment… 😉

    Liked by 3 people

  16. Green Global Trek / May 7 2017 4:45 pm

    Ahhh Paris ~ my husband Ben’s hometown. My favorite city in the world. Lucky you, to be there now in Spring time no less. The fashion museum near the Eiffel tower and tapestry museum ( tiny) in the St. Germaine area are two of our favorites lesser known museums.

    Love the architecture and the celestisl globe. Paris is so lovely in the rain!


    Liked by 3 people

    • leggypeggy / May 7 2017 4:47 pm

      Thanks so much for the museum tips. We’re heading out sightseeing soon. I don’t mind the rain, but I wish it was a bit warmer. Brrrr!


  17. pvcann / May 7 2017 6:06 pm

    That’s one itinerary I’d love to be on, looks like it’s already a great experience

    Liked by 3 people

  18. Miriam / May 7 2017 6:32 pm

    Looks like an amazing place. Enjoy it all Peggy.

    Liked by 2 people

  19. spearfruit / May 7 2017 9:06 pm

    Very cool Peggy, thank for this post. This was very interesting. 🙂

    Liked by 2 people

  20. theunassuminghiker / May 7 2017 9:26 pm

    Really enjoyed this post, I have not been to that library, it sounds/looks fascinating. Have a great time in Paris!

    Liked by 4 people

  21. Deb / May 8 2017 12:30 pm

    Wow those spheres are amazing and they weigh 2 tons!!! Holy moly.

    Liked by 3 people

  22. Catnip Blog / May 8 2017 2:35 pm

    I live in Southern California and in this last election it was an island . . . proof of pre-cognition dating back to the 1600’s.

    Liked by 2 people

  23. Carol Taloni / May 8 2017 3:34 pm

    Peggy. Another amazing journey for me. You know I have not travelled overseas and am unlikely to do so now, so am enthralled at being involved in your beautiful descriptive journeys and the fantastic photographs. I re read your beginning stories about how Poor John gained his name and the reason behind your Cooking Section. So many wonderful adventures I have seen through your eyes.
    With my Hearing Loss Lip Reading Class, I wonder can I use your wonderful stories. For Listening Exercises, they will be fabulous. Plus I will show these latest photographs of the Globes. A lot of them travel, so can have a view of another special place to visit. Very grateful for this superb opportunity to view things through your storytelling.

    Liked by 2 people

    • leggypeggy / May 8 2017 3:41 pm

      Oh Carol, how lovely to have you stop by and thank you so much for your wonderful comment. I would be thrilled to have you use any of my posts in any way in your Hearing Loss Lip Reading Class. As a teenager, I used to help out on weekends at the Nebraska School for the Deaf—a dear friend’s father was the principal. Another friend (who was deaf) was so accomplished at lip reading that she used to interpret in court.
      P.S. I did my taxes the day before we left on this holiday. 🙂


  24. excellence / May 8 2017 6:11 pm

    Very interesting, wonder combination at in one place.

    Liked by 2 people

  25. jeanleesworld / May 8 2017 8:41 pm

    Those globes are jaw-droppingly awesome. I also love seeing olden days posters. I used to study that sort of thing when I was a history major in college; it’s amazing how a single image, painted right, encourages different desires, philosophies, politics, and the like.

    Liked by 3 people

    • leggypeggy / May 9 2017 3:31 am

      I’m so glad you like this post. The globes and posters are my kind of thing too.

      Liked by 1 person

  26. voulaah / May 9 2017 11:15 pm

    Thank you so much for sharing very intersting post dear
    have a very nice day

    Liked by 2 people

  27. Radar Mundial / May 10 2017 2:45 am

    very nice

    Liked by 2 people

  28. Steph McCoy / May 10 2017 11:09 pm

    Very impressive. I’d love to see the celestial globes in person – wow.

    Liked by 2 people

  29. wfdec / May 10 2017 11:54 pm

    I wonder which Navigator saw enough of Australia back then to have it on the globe.

    Liked by 2 people

    • leggypeggy / May 11 2017 12:50 am

      Good point. I wonder if it was the Portuguese?


  30. anjali / May 13 2017 12:07 am

    Awesome place!…

    Liked by 2 people

  31. Science time / Jul 3 2017 4:20 am

    Nice post! I’m making posts about scientific explanations behinde everyday appearance and other stuff so if you have time and will please go and check it out! If you like it pls follow me, I follow you.
    Thank you! 🙂

    Liked by 2 people

    • leggypeggy / Jul 3 2017 10:32 am

      Thanks for stopping by and commenting. I tried to find your posts, but there isn’t a link.

      Liked by 1 person

      • Science time / Jul 3 2017 5:12 pm

        just go on my profile hahah

        Liked by 1 person

      • leggypeggy / Jul 3 2017 9:52 pm

        I did, but the link isn’t there. You need to add it.


    • leggypeggy / Jul 31 2017 6:08 pm

      I suppose they are apostles in that they carry important messages to the community. But I prefer to think of them as advocates.

      Liked by 1 person

      • declutteringmylifeweb / Jul 31 2017 6:10 pm

        I agree. However, they have been allotted such a credence that their influence has become utterly dominant.


      • leggypeggy / Jul 31 2017 6:27 pm

        They have influence is some camps and seem to be totally ignored in others.



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