The Bibliothèque Forney is housed in the refurbished mansion Hotel de Sens, a magnificent example of Medieval architecture originally constructed in 1478. It is home to a collection of over 23,000 books that are dedicated to the education of craftspeople, designers and artists in Paris.
I entered the courtyard through the old iron gates and climbed the wide stone staircase to find the reception where I was given a guided tour by a friendly member of staff. We walked past shelves stacked with books on decorative arts, the art and craft professions and their techniques, fine arts and graphic arts, as well as fashion, advertising and design. I explained my area of interest and the librarian brought me to the section filled with books on embroidery, lace, and costume. I was in heaven but the tour wasn't over. In a long medieval hall lit by mullioned windows, oversized volumes lined the shelves along the walls. People sat with their heads bent at the large tables, reading, writing, typing, sketching and daydreaming. Under the watchful eye of the little gargoyles set between the banisters, we tip-toed up another stone staircase to a mezzanine area for magazines and journals specialising in decorative and fine arts.
A steep and narrow spiral stairwell led us huffing and puffing to the top floor to find the archive section. There are thousands of exhibition catalogues, magazines, rare books, fashion catalogues and plates, posters, postcards and even menus from the 19th century. It also has a remarkable collection of 9,000 samples of wallpaper, printed textiles, lace, embroidery and original designs from the 18th and 19th centuries. These were donated by the Parisienne craftspeople who used the library including the Rusterholtz embroidery atelier...
Embroidery designs from the Rusterholtz Atelier
Needless to say, I filled out my membership form and was thrilled to hear that I could take out up to eight books for three weeks at a time. I found a spot between the shelves and began to research the history, techniques and designs of haute couture embroidery