The Merci Collection

The Books: Part II

Cities and Provinces


Many of the books in the Merci Collection are guidebooks pertaining to specific cities or provinces of France. They contain historical information about the areas and most are either illustrated or contain photographic images.


Paris (1948) by André George

“Paris” is part of a collection of books, called “Les Beaux Pays,” that covers French provinces, colonies, and foreign countries. The book has a color illustration on the cover and contains 214 heliogravure images inside. The book discusses various monuments and sections of Paris such as the Louvre, Notre Dame Cathedral, and the Latin Quarter.

Example of heliogravure from “Paris”

 Heliogravure is a photographic etching process, now known as photogravure, in which a photographic image is etched onto a copper plate. A photo positive is placed on a copper plate that has a layer of light-sensitive chemicals on top. The plate and positive are then exposed to light, which etches the photographic image on to the copper plate. The plate is inked, then pressed on to a piece of paper to create an image with high tonal value. Though the use of photogravures in books was popular in the first half of the 20th century, the photogravure process is now mostly used in art photography. Many books in the Merci Collection have heliogravures.

Camargue, Mon Tendre Amour! (1946) by Albert Ganeval

Camargue is a region in France in the river delta of the Rhône River and with a border on the Mediterranean Sea. The book is a mix of fiction and reality based on the author’s, Albert Ganeval, experiences and memories. There are also seventy illustrations by J. Oberthur and a preface written in the provincial language of Camargue by Marius Conte-Devolx.

Bordeaux dans la Nation Française (1939) published by Editions Delmas

Bordeaux is a city in the southwest of France and sits on the Garonne River. The book is a compilation of chapters written by different authors. Authors include the mayor, the chief architect, and the president of the Chamber of Commerce of Bordeaux. The Ringling Museum Library’s copy is numbered as number 104 out of 200 copies printed on vellum. Maps depicting the city from the 1st century AD to the 18th century are included along with images of the city’s various monuments and people.

Map of Bordeaux in the 18th century. Bordeaux dans la Nation Francaise.

Rue de la Republique. From “Orléans: Meurtrie et Libérée.”

Orléans: Meurtrie et Libérée (1945)

  This book chronicles Orléans, a city south of Paris on the Loire River, during the years of WWII from 1940-1944. A timeline of events is given including the German invasion and occupation, the battle for the access to the Loire River, and the eventual liberation of Orléans. The majority of the book, however, is images. The story of Orléans during WWII is told through pictures of bombed buildings, soldiers, and the daily lives of the people who lived in Orléans.


Le Chablais a Travers les Siècles (1931) by L.E. Piccard

The title of this book translates to “Chablais through the centuries” and notes the history of this former province of Savoy from prehistory to modern times. Chablais sits in between Switzerland and France, near Lake Geneva, or Lac Leman in French. Various cities of the region are discussed such as Evian, Thonon, and Yvoire. Photogravures of architecture, ports, and landscapes are included.

Page from “Sites et Monuments: La Lorraine (La Moselle)”

Sites et Monuments: La Lorraine (La Moselle) (1937) published by Touring-Club de France

This book was produced by the Touring-Club de France, which promoted tourism throughout France. Lorraine is a region in the northeast corner of France and borders with Belgium, Luxembourg, and Germany. La Moselle is one of the departments that make up the Lorraine region. The text was written by Baron de la Chaise who talks about Lorraine’s major city, Metz, the industry of the region, and the forest and mountain areas.





Nimes, Uzès, Aigue- Mortes (1929) by André Chagny

This book is the only translated book in the Merci Collection. It is part of a series called “Visions of France” and completes the special volume of the series on Avignon. Nimes is in the south of France and was once part of the Roman Empire. Many of the photographic images in the book are of Nimes’ Roman structures. G.L. Arlaud illustrated the book with 60 heliogravures. Also included are the cities Uzès and Aigues-Mortes, which are in the same region as Nimes.

Angoulême (1934) by L. Burias and J.A. Catala

Angoulême is a small city in southwestern France. The book is signed with an inscription from one of the authors, J.A. Catala. Catala also took photographs for the book, which are reproduced using the photogravure process. In between all the black and white photographic images are two color plates; one is a painting of St. Pierre Cathedral and the other is an image of a manuscript page from 1572. There is even a fold out map included at the back of the book which shows the major sites of Angoulême and the expansion of the city from the 3rd century AD to the 17th century.

Page with inscription from J.A. Catala in “Angoulême.”


Some of the books from the Merci Train do not necessarily fit in to the Ringling Museum Library’s collection. For example, a few of the books are about agriculture in France.

Les Champignons (1948) by Roger Heim

Les champignons means mushrooms in English and the book “Les Champignons” discusses several types of mushrooms. The descriptions tell where the mushrooms grow, their characteristics, and whether they are edible or not. Many photos and figures are given to show the different species of mushrooms. There are also watercolors of mushrooms by Yvonne Jean-Haffen. The book was donated to the Merci Train by the Institut National Agronomique (National Agronomic Institute). It contains an inscription inside from the chairman of the institute’s students.

Les Beaux Fruits de France (1947) by Georges Delbard

This book is about the fruit grown in France. Different horticulture techniques are described such as grafting (taking a piece of one plant and grafting it onto another), commercial farming, and packaging and preserving fruits. There is even a section about how to avoid and eliminate parasites when growing fruit. There are over 200 black and white images and 32 plates of color photographs. This book, like “Les Champignons,” also came from the Institut National Agronomique and is inscribed by the president of the teacher’s corps. On the dedication page the author describes how “Les Beaux Fruits de France” began in 1943, during the German occupation of France. There were difficulties in finding materials and putting together the book, but it was able to be done thanks to the efforts of several people.









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