Just finished a long and exhilarating day at the Bibliothèque Nationale de France – its Galerie Mazarine is about the most opulent place one can imagine to spend hours going through manuscripts.
I am working at the Richelieu site of the BNF – the Mitterand site, I’m told, is less lavish, more functional. The BNF-Richelieu is currently under extensive renovation, and it’s tricky finding your way over the slippery snow to the side entrance on Rue Vivienne. On the inside of the enclave, the guards are less zealous in their duties than their American counterparts – no sniffing dogs, strip searches, or interrogations. They work on the assumption that a computer case is just a computer case until proven otherwise, and wave you on.
France makes up for its laissez-faire security with the rigorous procedures indoors: I had to fill out intrusive forms and get a private interview to register for my laminated BNF card with photo – then pay eight euros for the first three days. (I’ll have to pay again on Saturday.) It discourages the less determined.
It’s worth it, however. In the end, you get Galerie Mazarine.
At the end of a fruitful day, I must calm myself by contemplating the world’s most beautiful bookstores. Fortunately, Flavorwire has just the ticket. It lists twenty of the world’s most beautiful bookstores here.
The most entrancing bookstore I have ever visited made the cut: the Librería El Ateneo Grand Splendid in Buenos Aires. I’m not surprised. Wandering its aisles with my Argentinian friends was truly a mind-boggling experience. The erstwhile theater boxes are reading rooms – perhaps for those trying to get away from the thousands of tourists that come to the bookstore every year. Well, that’s one way to turnaround bookstore sales in a sagging industry.
Now, back to my Eiffel tower digs to work some more on the notes I have gathered today.