A review of the French ephemera society, Le Vieux Papier by ESA member Wendi Bradshaw
Interest in this association was inspired from information mentioned within Francisca Matteoli’s book World Tour, as reviewed in the ESA newsletter, March 2022. If you intend accessing their website, unless you speak French, you should click on the ‘translate this page’ prompt next to their URL for partial English access.
Le Vieux Papier, ‘Old Paper’, are passionate about “all documents of everyday life printed on paper, from its origins (15th century) to the present day”, and within their drop-down link ‘Illustrated Thesaurus’, under ‘Who we are’ their many interests are listed. These include posters, almanacs, archives, illustrators, advertising, bank notes, industry, goose games, school notebooks, satirical newspapers, menus and wallpapers … which is mention of only a few of the 80-odd topics. Sadly, this is just a list – with no access to further links or information.
Within the opening pages of the association’s website under ‘Old paper history’ they state that theirs is “… the only French-language magazine devoted to ‘small prints’ and old papers of all kinds.” The association was founded in 1900 by a group of collectors with interests in what they termed ‘wallet collections’, which included postal correspondence such as letters, receipts, stamps and autographs. From their inception they have produced a quarterly publication originally titled Bulletin of the Archaeological, Historical and Artistic Society “Old Paper” – as was their association – however this title was shortened to Le Vieux Papier in 2009. While most of the topics they cover are paper-constructed ephemera, other non-paper collectables, such as toys, dominos, ‘bakery’, Meccano and ‘railroads’ are also listed; although without further access it’s hard to say if these are the items themselves or paper-based affiliate ephemera – packaging or advertising.
110 years of the journal indexed online
On the website is an index to the 110 years of the Bulletin, and they note with pride that local and international libraries and museums as well as individuals, subscribe to their journal.
The issues of the Bulletin du Vieux Papier from 1900 to 1969 are now digitized and available online on Gallica, which is a French site similar to Trove, a full text document and digital image database. Depending on the year, the issues are bound in one or more volumes. Several years are even sometimes grouped together in a single volume. For example, the Bulletins for the years 1914 to 1917 are grouped under the heading ‘1914’. The Gallica site allows you to carry out a search in the text either of a volume or of the entire collection and this site itself is an additional French ephemera resource for collectors. Likewise, select ‘translate this page’ at the URL.
Within Le Vieux Papier, the heading ‘Old paper bulletin’ is a link to a digital copy of each issue’s cover and contents’ page, for the period 2010 to 2022. It starts at the most recent issue, Le Vieux Papier January 2022 Bulletin number 443 and goes back to October 2010. The articles themselves are not digitised. They advise that you may purchase 120 back issues, from number 220 onwards and this may be how the index becomes useful.
Le Vieux Papier events
Under the site page ‘Our events’ tab is ‘Fairs and others’ and here is a brief list of local and British events – click on the blue highlights for information. Their association’s most recent event was an ‘Old Paper Saturday’ on 26 March 2022, which is a regularly scheduled affair. There is also listing under ‘Old paper colloquium’ of a program held in October 2019, ‘Collections and collectors’ which featured three speakers on playing cards, and a talk about the beginning of the French Playing Card Museum in Issy-les-Moulineaux.
Matteoli’s World Tour
The subjects within World Tour that inspired the investigation of this association are mentioned in the chapter ‘A brief history of hotel labels’ and there, three articles from Le Vieux Papier are reproduced in full. These all discuss hotel luggage labels at various timepoints and are titled ‘From their origins to the beginning of the golden age’, from Le Vieux Papier number 367 (January 2003); ‘The golden age: the Richter period’ from number 371 (January 2004); and ‘The golden age: the Art deco period’ from number 380 (April 2006). All these, authored by the scholarly Joao-Manuel Mimoso, are illuminating; however, the full-texts aren’t readily available unless the back issues are purchased. (Perhaps you could borrow the book.)
The site is visually pleasing, dotted with attractive imagery and generally inspiring – it’s just disappointing that more ephemera information isn’t freely accessible. If all the journal articles are written as well as Mimoso’s in World Tour, right now I feel it’s a shame I didn’t pay more attention in French class.
Site most recently accessed 11th April 2022.
First published in Ephemera News no. 16 June 2022.