About 5 years ago I had the joy of visiting Paris. On that very brief visit, I was told that I MUST stop in to see Deyrolle while I was there. For those of you that have never visited, it’s a natural science “Cabinet of Curiosities” shop started in 1831 that is filled to the brim with taxidermy, etymological specimens, shells and coral, beautiful instructional charts, classrooms, etc…and all displayed with a nod to whimsy. (This is evident from the first moment you look in the window and see an antelope dressed in gardening clothes.) Unfortunately, I had other appointments to attend to while I was there, but I literally could have stayed in Deyrolle for the entire day. It left me feeling sad to leave because I wanted to explore every nook and cranny of this incredible place, and felt as if I’d only scratched the surface.
Fast forward a few years, and I heard that Deyrolle had experienced a terrible fire and most of it had burned. Thankfully the owners and volunteers were able to save a great number of specimens…and today the shop has been rebuilt.
In 2009 Assouline Publishing released a book of photographs by Laurent Bochet called 1000 degrees Celsius that captured the remains of what happened after the fire. It’s a captivating book that I would recommend to anyone who loves animals and the spirit of survival. The portraits section at the end is my favorite part for it’s vitality against the blackened walls of the shop. It features volunteers posing with specimens that survived the fire from Deyrolle. My favorite quote from that section is, “Amid all this carbon, they [the specimens] had never looked as much like survivors. We gathered them together so that they could rub each other, nuzzle each other – a kiss.”