Thursday, October 27, 2005

Street signs (2)

I already mentionned the history of Paris street signs in this post in June but I never came accross (or did not pay attention to) this... Like I explained in June, it's only after 1728 that it became compulsory for the owners of the first and the last houses of each street to engrave the street name. Later, in 1806 Napoleon passed a law saying that the names should not be engraved any longer but painted and in 1847 the city authorities turned to a enamel! On this photo you can still see both.


  1. The street name "rue de Bievre" comes from the river name "la Bievre". The Bievre river still flows across Paris, but don't look for it.. It is now covered up, just like a regular sewer. It has been used for centuries for various industries until it became too polluted.


  2. Please note that the engraved name is written in "Vieux François", "BIEURE", nowadays "BIÈVRE". Until I don't know exactly when, the letters "U" and "V" that follow each other in the alphabet were commonly merged in French.
    One additional point: former French President François MITTERAND had his personal apartment located 22 rue de Bièvre. His widow Danièle presumably still lives there (but I am not too sure she does. Maybe she had to sell it, along with many other belongings, in order to discharge her son's [Jean-Christophe] countless debts).

  3. Wow, FX, what an erudite you are! (not that I ever had any doubts about that.) First, les fontaines Wallace, now the "historiette" of Mitterand-rue de Bièvre connection.

    Joris-Karl Huysmans, the late 19th century novelist and art critic on whom I wrote my doctoral dissertation, wrote a very nice essay on La Bièvre, whose disappearance he saw as a sign of the evil nature of the "modernization" of Paris.

  4. Actually Fix, you're right, that is the street where President Mitterand used to live (even while he was in charge). His widow still lives there as this photo shows it. I suppose DM stands for...

  5. Eric, the above link does not work. can you fix it? Thanks.

  6. This is my first time to this site and this photo reminded me of a street near the hostel I stayed at in 2000.
    Behind the Hotel de Ville is the Rue de l'Hotel de Ville (sorry, not sure how to make accents!). At No. 89 the old street name is engraved in a similar manner to the one pictured. The original name, Rue de la Mortellerie (named after the medieval masons who lived there ("mortelliers"), was changed in 1832 after a cholera epidemic killed 19,000 people in 90 days. Apparently the residents did not want a name that contained the word mort!

    My source for this information is Frommer's Memorable Walks in Paris