Parisian flea markets have become quite the attraction, which means that, for example, an old wooden cork screw worth 1â?¬ now usually goes for 10. While I love to go to the big market at St. Ouen, the prices are so inflated (I bought an old perfume label for 5â?¬ – it’s a piece of paper!) that now I seldom buy a thing.
Not so at the brocante on Place Maubert last Sunday. The sellers there were really trying to get their stuff to move. There were books, bags, and housewares for 50 cents or 3 for 1â?¬, glasses for 10 cents, and one seller offered an all-you-can-carry price of 5â?¬.
After buying a bunch of tins and a useful yellow bag (the whole bunch for 2â?¬ ), I found an old photography print of a Parisian street (La rue Cler) in the early 1900s. The print seller also had tons of old books and said I could take all I want for 5â?¬. I filled my bag with anything that looked interesting: an homage to Marie and Pierre Curie when they won the Nobel in 1935, a propaganda-filled Vichy-era agenda (which merits at the very least its own blog post), and a little beat-up book about making your own toys. I also grabbed some pretty hard-cover books, including RenÃ©e by Etienne Marcel (for my sister-in-law, RenÃ©e), one by Balzac (Les Chouans, the word Chouans meaning French royalists) and another by Zola (L’Argent or Money).
It wasn’t until Monday morning that I thought to check the publication dates. The Zola book was a nice surprise: the publication date, 1891, as well as the publication house are the originals. There is a stamp from a library inside, which may mean that the binding is not original (though it looks very old), but it is pretty exciting to have a first edition, in any case! I usually attribute only personal value to the objects I pick up at these things, but for once, I may actually have something valuable to others as well.
1891 edition of L’Argent
The hunt is half the fun, though, and I’m happy to dig through the dust and come away with nothing. There’s just something magical about the possibility of finding a hidden treasure, whether it be a book of historical significance or just a pretty tin box to store sugar cubes!