Parisian Detective Work

By Holly Tucker

Wonders and Marvels
has been a little quiet this past week. But life has actually been not quiet at all!

I just returned from a whirlwind research trip to Paris. Mission: to delve into the mysteries of a stash of 400 year-old documents in the archives of the French Academy of Sciences. The picture above will you a sense of why I left the library with more than a little dust on me.

My archival sleuth work will figure prominently in the book that I'm finishing up. So stay tuned!

In the meantime, a few highlights:

Over the course of just of few days, I dug gently around in cartons and cartons of manuscripts and corrected page proofs from the 17th century.

I stood awkwardly in front of an equally old building in the busy Marais quarter, waiting for someone to let me in. I wanted desperately to have a chance to where one of my historical guys lived, and did some of the crazy experiments I describe in the book. I lucked out when a mail person showed up. And lost my pride once again as I begged and pleaded to have a look around. (It worked!)

I visited the Paris Observatory, which was built by another fascinating historical figure that I bring back to life in the book. And then, what the heck, I sat quietly in an anatomical amphitheatre in the heart of the Latin Quarter.

My French surgeons learned their craft in these two-storied dissection halls. I spent a good twenty minutes, sitting right in the very spot where the dissection table would have stood, soaking it all in.

I didn't have to beg to get in, but I did get many odd looks from the workers of the Paris Human Resources department who inhabit this small historical building now.

Que la vie est belle!

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  1. It's a horrifying life you lead, but someone has to do it.

    Wow. Sounds like a fabulous and fruitful trip.

  2. Sounds like a wonderful trip! I'm glad begging paid off!

  3. I know, it's hard, but someone has to do it!! :)

  4. I loved this post, Holly. I know that feeling of desperation so well! "Just let me IN!" And it's so breathlessly glorious when one DOES get in. Bravo!

  5. Love the post. Hunting down old forgotten documents and archives at grand libraries, sounds like something out of a book :)

    The history of science must be a fascinating subject. I wonder if everything back then was more or less the same as it is now, just based on different first principles.

  6. That sounds so wonderful! I swear, the minute I finish with my 20th century neurosurgeons, I will go back in time!

  7. Fascinating! I went to the Musee Fragonard last week and thought of you. All the monsters, and the ecorches, of course.


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