FYI France

File 3: Ejournal and archive

by Jack Kessler,

May 15, 2017 issue. This file presents an archive copy of the issue of the FYI France ejournal, ISSN 1071-5916, which was distributed via email on May 15, 2017.

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Versions of the following have appeared online regularly, since 1992, as a feature of the FYI France ejournal, ISSN 1071-5916, which is distributed for free via email every month except August. Ejournal subscriptions may be obtained via email request to:

Here this file is one of a number made available -- hopefully attractively, all in one place, and relevant to libraries and online digital information work in France and Europe. Please email suggestions for improvements to me at




Global Cities, then & now & digital


F or a wonderful stroll through early-18th century Paris -- courtesy of a true online-digital-library & one of the first comprehensive Internet offerings of both the books and the access -- see, Turgot's famous "Plan de Paris", one of the great prizes of the Bibliothèque nationale de France, and the digital reproduction of which is a showpiece of the BnF's remarkable online-digital-library showcase, Gallica.


* the subject

The Global Cities, in which increasingly we all live --

-- include the enormous Paris Agglomeration but also, now, huge and some would say monstrous-similar scattered around the planet, more and more in hugely-populated Asia but also in Latin America, Africa, everywhere. None of us really understand these humongous Global Cities, yet; some of us study their histories to that end...

It can be fascinating to examine a place like Paris as it has developed over time. As any visitors who have explored the dramatic museum beneath the "parvis" in front of Notre Dame de Paris --

-- or gazed up at the cavernous spaces which once contained the Roman "thermae" across the river, there --

-- Paris clearly has been many very different cities throughout its long and fascinating history.

The question, then, is how to examine this -- how to research, and know, and come to understand, the Global Cities we now have and inhabit, and which have us so greatly now in their physical and digital grip. For this purpose, consider the online-digital-book...


* the book

The very famous Plan Turgot of Paris, composed and published in the early 18th century, views the city of that era, minutely, showing tiny trees and gardens and barges laden with wood and individual buildings... The prints in countless formats grace many walls and windows in Paris itself, elsewhere throughout France, within many a New York and Tokyo and Melbourne apartment of some nostalgic Francophile in those places, fondly remembering a Paris séjour... All said reproductions usually finger-marked from the sheer fun of tracing the little lanes, and old street-names, and magnificent buildings of that pre-Haussmann era...

This version held by the Bibliothèque Nationale de France and used for digitization is a book of maps, assembled to preserve the same, perhaps for their preservation-only and perhaps for their congenial presentation to a seated reader, inspired by the enormous wall-size versions only-glimpsed elsewhere, who really wants to sit and study the thing in-detail. The book appeared before the Internet did: had the Plan not been made as a book, it would have been harder for the Internet to capture the image and instantly provide it to the entire world, as it does here -- so, a symbiosis, between the worlds of ink & paper and the world of the-digital...


* online access

For here, with a point & click on the above link, readers anywhere on the planet now can wander through early-18th c. Paris, the pre-Haussmann and even pre-Revolutionary Paris of Louis XIV and Louis XV, wondering many things -- the Bastille is there, a user in Melbourne on an iPad can wander on fingertips over to what now is the Place des Vosges, wondering how that looked when The Revolution broke upon it, then walk to the Arsenal or across-town to see the Palais des Tuileries before it was burned... where the precious orange trees still (maybe?) are blooming at the Orangerie...

The many miracles of online access, crossing global boundaries and centuries in milliseconds...


* other Gallica

And when you have finished wandering, this time, through Turgot's Paris, be sure to check-out the other online digital marvels of Gallica --

-- currently featuring, for example --

-- Paris... still worth-a-journey, digital or otherwise...




A Note:

It is one of the remarkable aspects of our era that the world's largest Global Cities are being built now in China, and in India, and elsewhere in Asia.

Cities of 35 million & more inhabitants, each -- dozens of them, a-building now, all over China and India -- others spotted-about wherever the European Empires of previous centuries' Age of Sail & Age of Discovery plopped them down, next to the vast oceans of what everywhere have become now the steadily-rising seas.

Singapore, Jakarta, Hong Kong, Tokyo... How many Asian potentates tried desperately to counter the onslaughts of strange hairy barbarians who smelled bad and arrived from Europe in sturdy if ugly little ships bearing powerful guns, by assigning them supposedly-useless coastal pestilential swamps which said-foreigners then transformed into giant maritime ports for trade & drugs & other foreign vices, including "progress"...

So now their eras end: Google "Amboyna", "Melaka", other now-deserted empire-outposts, visit or just look at those on Google Maps -- the rest will follow as the ocean storms grow worse and the sea levels rise -- Bombay, already rechristened and moved in from the threatening coast, it's to be "Navi Mumbai", now -- Calcutta, now "Kolkatta" and preparing for the great human disaster when Bangladesh nearby finally drowns, 200 million souls with no fresh water and nowhere to swarm-to but crowded Kolkatta, the fringes already creeping over to slaughters in Myanmar -- Tokyo, become a paved paradise for a delicately-balanced nature-culture, now left with miniscule bonsais in tiny Ginza apartments, Japan's many contradictions increasing again, facing radiation, homegrown from its North Coast where once they grew the city's fish and vegetables, and imported now from the bombs of ancient neighbors and their enmities...

Consider, then, the irony that Europe's giant Global Cities have very recent origins. Turgot drew up his maps of Paris only 300 years ago: they show a tiny village just-then exploding out over the "faubourg" farmlands leading to it, an ancient river-crossing and now a few more, two or three pilgrimage routes, some rustic churches now gradually enclosed by the growing city, but downtown, near the very city-center still, Faubourg St. Honoré, and, agriculture, "potager" household and market gardens, the future Ile St. Louis and other river islands still depots for wood from upstream forests, fueling construction after frequent fires, also symbiotic cooking and heating in the very-flammable homes... Old Paris must have had many a funny duo like Chaplin & little Coogan in "The Kid", scraping by in & around Zola's & Hugo's "ventre de Paris", venturing out to scurry through alleys, one lighting fires which the other then could repair...

It is a primitive picture, a village recently-grown, drinking and washing water still drawn and pumped from a river still used for sewage, cloven hoofed animals and manure for the market-gardens, morning ordures out the upper-storey windows, the smoke, the smells...


But the city of Chang'an, in China, housed a million people, in 750 AD -- just inside the city walls, as with city walls everywhere and always, and modern gerrymandered municipalities, urban hinterlands sheltered perhaps a million more, suburban populations "renewed" whenever invaders arrived...

And in 1200 AD the city-region of Angkor, now in modern Kampuchea, housed a million as well -- again not counting hinterlands...

This Paris in Turgot's time or just before -- Louis XIV-XV -- had a population of perhaps 250,000...


What we know, or remember, comes mostly from our ancestors, and they from theirs, and they from theirs -- so, back perhaps a few generations at most. Most cultures and civilizations try to lengthen this short span, using devices such as archives, and libraries, and texts and songs and poems and recitation -- but most of those efforts do not succeed -- just last month we pulverized our earliest known library, that of Senacherib and Assurbanipal at Nineveh aka Mosul, and that not for the first time.

The knowledge and understanding of large cities embodied in Angkor and Chang'an has lain buried and nearly entirely forgotten for centuries, beneath resplendent watery jungle in the first case and under sandy loess-blown soil in the second -- until very recently, this very year we are re-learning all that.

If we are to preserve that knowledge and not have to reinvent it with each destruction, we must have leaders who have studied and values which esteem our pasts, and we must understand that reinvention is expensive, too expensive... -- but it seems we rarely have such leaders, and one day the costs of such reinvention will be much too high.







FYI France (sm)(tm) e-journal ISSN 1071-5916

      |         FYI France (sm)(tm) is a monthly electronic
      |         journal published since 1992 as a small-scale,
      |         personal experiment, in the creation of large-
      |         scale "information overload", by Jack Kessler.
     / \        Any material written by me which appears in
    -----       FYI France may be copied and used by anyone for
   //   \\      any good purpose, so long as, a) they give me
  ---------     credit and show my email address, and, b) it
 //       \\    isn't going to make them money: if it is going
                to make them money, they must get my permission
in advance, and share some of the money which they get with me. 
Use of material written by others requires their permission. 
FYI France archives are in various places on the Internet, i.e. 
at (PACS-L), 
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        Copyright 1992- , by Jack Kessler,
all rights reserved except as indicated above. 


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