Tucked away on the upstairs floor of the impressive Louvre museum store, La Chalcographie du Louvre is a rare find. The modest room offers some 13,000 prints from the Louvre’s collection, bound in hundreds of hefty leather books that can be perused at your leisure (if you can lift them). That’s wondrous in itself, but it gets better—any one of these prints can be yours. Each plate is housed in the museum archives and, at your request, can be sent to the Louvre’s own print shop and given a run by master printers on museum-quality paper for a relatively minor investment. The most popular images are already in stock, easy to view and can walk right out with you. So even if you’re not in the mood to go sleuthing for the unusual, there are hundreds at your fingertips. Bestsellers include detailed maps of pre- and post-Haussmannian Paris; any one of more than 900 engravings of Napoleon’s campaign in Egypt (1798–1801); and hundreds of prints from the historic galleries and gardens of Versailles, one of France’s most important illustrated collections of French decorative art. There are also splendid botanical prints, examples of period costumes in sumptuous color (complete with metallic inks), scenic landscapes and selected modern and contemporary artists. And all this barely scratches the surface. If you have a special interest in the graven image or just want an extraordinary gift or souvenir of Paris, make haste to this astonishing place.
Librairie-Boutiques of the Musée du Louvre, Carrousel du Louvre, 1st, 01.40.20.59.35. website
Originally published in the February 2011 issue of France Today
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