Thursday, February 11, 2010

A curator's Paris journal : Librairie Alain Brieux

International networking with medical museums has been important to the Dittrick since Howard Dittrick first visited Henry Wellcome’s curator, C. J. S. Thompson, in London in 1928. I’ve been active in the European Association of Museums of the History of Medical Sciences (EAMHMS) since 1984, and that’s been a key venue for learning what’s happening in our field. I now serve on the Association’s governing council and that took me to Paris last fall. I set aside time to seek out some museums of medicine and science that I hadn’t yet seen. I thought I’d offer a series of postings on these off-the-beaten-track places, which you won’t find in Fodor’s, Frommer’s, or Rick Steves’ Europe through the back door. So here goes…

Librairie Alain Brieux 48, rue Jacob - 75006 Paris

Any visit to Paris today by collectors or curators would be incomplete without a visit to the Librairie Alain Brieux, the premier rare book shop that features medical antiques as well. Located in Saint Germain-des-Prés, just a stone’s throw from the Sorbonne’s medical school, Brieux’s shop resembles a museum with its collection on sale. While there Dara Asken Teste showed us a c.1750 anatomical atlas featuring color plates by Gautier d’Agoty (price only $85,000).

Not too long ago, the Dittrick bought from Alain Brieux a 1902 lithograph of a striking dissection scene, Une Fin À l’École Pratique [An End At the Practical School] by Camille Félix Bellanger (1853-1923). I first saw this work in the Brieux window after hours on a Saturday night, and it really surprised me. I thought that I had just about seen most images depicting dissection over the years, but Bellanger’s work was totally unknown and fresh. A phone call once back in the States secured this beautiful lithograph for the Dittrick, happily. Read more about it in the Spring 2008 Newsletter of the Cleveland Medical Library Association.

Tout à l'heure

Jim Edmonson

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