Stanford University
Roxane Debuisson Collection

Photo Credit: Gazette Drouot

Roxane Debuisson Collection on Paris History

The Roxane Debuisson Collection on Paris History is the life’s work of a singular collector, Mme Roxane Debuisson (1927-2018). Madame Debuisson was born in Paris. Over the course of over 60 years, she built one of the great private collections on the history of Paris, focusing on the period from the mid-18th century through the Belle Epoque. Starting in the 1950s, Debuisson began to enroll in walking tours and courses on the history of Paris. This was during the time known as the Trente glorieuses, the postwar era of rapid urban, social, and cultural change in France, and a moment when Paris was transformed through rebuilding and modernizing. The aesthetics of the city were in flux, as buildings, façades, and institutions were being destroyed or reshaped and new means of transportation and commercial practices were transforming the landscape of the streets. To expand her knowledge of the city, Debuisson began to assemble her collection to include books, individual prints, illustrated works and periodicals, photographic materials, maps, and engraved billheads and other commercial ephemera. She sought out materials that documented the city’s long history, adventuring into the local bookshops and the ephemera markets. She amassed a major collection worthy of a specialized library or museum: over 3000 books, over 40,000 postcards, over 3800 individual prints, significant photographic and image holdings, maps and other cartographic materials, and guidebooks, and over 60,000 billheads and other commercial ephemera. She focused on documenting through abundance, realizing that a deep and diverse collection would provide the most nuanced view of such a complex city as Paris. Debuisson organized the materials not only by format, but also by subject and by geographic location. She created links between the materials in ways that demonstrated how the city evolved. One finds her handwritten notes and references slipped in throughout the materials. Her indexes and special subject files citing sources and documenting her research on specific topics are now part of the collection. Because they combine geographical information with social and cultural details, the collection’s large number of reference works about Paris serve as additional keys to discovery and research. The collection will retain the original order and arrangement of the materials.