X-rated ‘hell’ at the Bibliothèque Nationale

The National Library is currently showing its collection of X-rated images, once kept under the codename of “hell”…

photo (c) AnnieD62

Started in the 19th Century, this collection of books, drawings and (later) photos has been kept from the public (even this exhibition is for over 16s only). Finally, thanks to the exhibition “L’enfer de la bibliothèque, Eros au secret” a huge collection of erotic and pornographic art and literature can be seen.

Although the first books date from the 16th Century, only in the 16th Century did this sort of literature really take off. Anything judged to be too racy was put in ‘hell’, so as not to shock visitors to the library. This included now-famous texts by famous and respectable authors such as Baudelaire and Apollinaire.

The 1960s finally saw an end to this puritanism, and ‘hell’ was officially closed (!) in 1969. The exhibition shows scenes of sex from throughout the ages, Japanese prints and erotic literature that we can now look back on with – if not nostalgia – understanding. Unsurprisingly, the exhibition is having quite a lot of success, thanks to its saucy nature. I bet for some people, it’s the first time they’ve set foot in the building. It makes a change for a stuffy library to hold such an exhibition, and it could be a good – if calmer – alternative to a night at the Crazy Horse!

Jean-Jacques Lequeu “Dessin d’un boudoir côté canapé”, between 1779 and 1795 – (c) BNF

Here’s all the essential information for the exhibition L’enfer de la bibliothèque, Eros au secret

When: 4th December 2007 – 2nd March 2008
Where: BNF (Bibliothèque Nationale de France), Quai François-Mauriac, Paris 13th arrondissement. Metro: Bibliothèque François-Mitterrand (line 14, RER C) or Quai de la Gare (line 6). Bus n°s, 62, 89, 132, 325
Opening hours: Tuesday – Sunday, 10am – 7pm (opens 1pm Sundays). Closed Mondays and public holidays
Price of admission: 7 euros, concessions 5 euros (visitors must be over 16)
Official site: here (in French unfortunately)


Bigger map here