Tuesday, October 20, 2009
I'm going to let you in on a little secret. Okay, maybe it's not a secret but I'd never heard anything about this bit of French history until someone took me down into the public areas of the Bibliothèque nationale François Mitterrand a few weeks ago. I'd even been there once before and somehow missed it. In short, back in the 1680s when Louis XIV was king, his ambassador to Rome, Cardinal César d'Estrées, commissioned Vincenzo Coronelli, a Franciscan monk renowned for his maps and atlases, to create two gigantic globes -- one depicting the known world and the other depicting the skies on the day of the Sun King's birth. Coronelli came to France for two years to do the job and the result is stunning. They are huge and awesome and beautifully preserved for your viewing pleasure absolutely free. In short, if you'll excuse me for sounding like a complete blithering idiot, they are completely and totally cool. The library has also created a Web site to go with the globes so even if you're not in Paris, you can check them out. If you are in town, ride the escalator down from the plaza and enter on the west side. Special thanks to Jacques for letting me in on the scoop.