Architecture Planning and Preservation Eiffel Tower
by
S. Hollis Clayson
  • LAST MODIFIED: 26 February 2020
  • DOI: 10.1093/obo/9780190922467-0014

Introduction

The literature on the Eiffel Tower is wide-ranging and multidisciplinary, echoing the character and history of the 300-meter iron structure itself: a singular and controversial monument with both a past and a present. Not meant to last beyond a few decades, the Tower still looms over Paris. It was the tallest structure on earth when constructed on the Champ de Mars in the French capital as the centerpiece of the 1889 Exposition Universelle, which marked the hundredth anniversary of the French Revolution. Reviled at first, it is revered today. During the post-WWII decades, it became the central icon and symbol of Paris and eventually of France tout court, and is today one of the most widely recognized and visited attractions in the world. The Tower was made a Monument historique in 1964 and named part of a UNESCO World Heritage Site (“Paris, Banks of the Seine”) in 1991. The publications enumerated and glossed in what follows align with the Tower’s complexity: they are drawn from art, architectural, cultural, economic, political, social, and technology history as well as biography and semiology.

General Accounts: Primary Literature

This section contains the first and most influential writings on the Eiffel Tower, including the writings of the engineer Gustave Eiffel himself and by the science popularizer Gaston Tissandier. Early first-hand accounts of the experience of ascending the Tower, those by Eugène Raboul and E. M. de Vogüé, are also included, as are the published encomia of an insider who loved the iron structure, Max de Nansouty. The only 20th-century authors included are those whose texts comment on primary materials: 1) the indispensable historian of the Eiffel Tower, Bertrand Lemoine, who prefaced the reprint of one of Eiffel’s enormous 1900 volumes, and 2) Amélie Granet, the compiler of the 1989 guide to the fonds Eiffel, the archive at the Musée d’Orsay.

  • Eiffel, Gustave. La Tour de Trois Cents Mètres: Texte. Paris: Société des Imprimeries Lemercier, 1900a.

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    Eiffel’s highly technical eight-part account is almost 400 pages long. It details the planning and building of the structure. Questions of its cost and its potential for scientific utility (e.g., in the realm of meteorology) are also considered in detail. It was published on 1 June 1900 in a limited edition of 500 copies on wove paper, just at the moment of the Tower’s second starring role in an Exposition Universelle.

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  • Eiffel, Gustave. La Tour de Trois Cents Mètres: Planches. Paris: Société des Imprimeries Lemercier, 1900b.

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    Complete reprint of the large-scale volume, with introductory text (in four languages) by Bertrand Lemoine.

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  • Granet, Amélie. Musée d’Orsay: Catalogue sommaire illustré du fonds Eiffel. Paris: Éditions de la Réunion des Musées Nationaux, 1989.

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    This is the essential guide to the rich archival corpus that is a fundamental point of departure for Eiffel Tower research. Granet’s volume lists and categorizes the hundreds of documents, letters, published materials, art works, and other objects given to the Musée d’Orsay by the Eiffel family in 1981. The materials are accessible at the Orsay to researchers by appointment.

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  • Lemoine, Bertrand. “Gustave Eiffel’s Three-Hundred-Metre Tower: An Accomplishment.” In The Eiffel Tower. By Bertrand Lemoine, 7–11. Cologne: Taschen, 2016.

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    The fifty-three double-page spreads illustrate every detail of the complicated prefabricated iron structure by bringing together the 4,300 or so original plans that guided the building of the Tower and its interior layout. Lemoine’s essay provides an overview of the two-volume publication and Eiffel’s ostensible motives for preparing it, followed by five helpful thematic narratives: Mr. Eiffel’s Tower, The Artists’ Protest, The Construction of the Tower, Public Success, and The Scientist.

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  • Nansouty, Max de. La Tour Eiffel de 300 mètres à l’Exposition Universelle de 1889: Historique et description. Paris: Bernard Tiguol Ed., 1889.

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    A forceful endorsement of every aspect of the Tower, which Nansouty calls “progress materialized.” The author was a member of the Press Committee of the Exposition of 1889.

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  • Reboul, Eugène. Souvenir de mon ascension à la Tour Eiffel. Paris: L. Warner, 1889.

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    This is a first-person account of a journey up into the Tower by an enthusiast utterly besotted by the new structure. His exciting ascension is absent fatigue, shaking, vertigo, and danger. He was especially specific about and intoxicated by the Tower’s lighting. He admires its aesthetics as well (p. 28): “No-one will contradict us if we affirm that there is more merit, and more art, in the 300-metre tower than in 9/10 of the works on exhibit in the Salon.”

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  • Tissandier, Gaston. La Tour Eiffel de trois cents mètres. Paris: G. Masson, 1889.

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    Tissandier, an influential science journalist and editor of La Nature, covers Eiffel’s biography and the origin of the Tower briefly before shifting to highly technical topics: foundations, hydraulic presses, ironwork, scaffolding and cranes, staircases and elevators, and the campanile and lighthouse. The final section, “What is the Use of the Eiffel Tower?,” emphasizes its contribution to constructive ironwork, the service it will render to strategy in wartime, telegraphic communication, meteorology, astronomy, urban illumination, and the enlargement of human horizons. Translated into English by Gaston Tissandier as The Eiffel Tower: A Description of the Monument, Its Construction, Its Machinery, Its Object and Its Utility (London: Sampson Low, Marston, Searle & Rivington, 1889).

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  • Vogüé, E. M. de. Remarques sur l’Exposition du Centenaire. Paris: E. Plon, Norrit et Cie., 1889.

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    The Vicomte de Vogüé, man of letters, diplomat, and Orientalist, wrote an admiring account of the choice and launch of Eiffel’s Tower, which included the first great account of the panoramic view from the 300-meter Tower at night. His description of the intensity and restlessness of the Tower’s own illuminations is unparalleled in period literature.

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General Accounts: Secondary Literature

The titles collected include the work (seven books and one essay) published between 1964 and 2009 by eight modern historians: Braibant, Harriss, Jonnes, Le Comte, Lemoine, Lyonnet du Moutier, Seitz, and Silverman. Two architectural historians, Bergdoll and Steiner, and two art historians, Kohle and Loyrette, round out the roster of major interpreters of the history, reputation, and meaning of the Eiffel Tower.

  • Bergdoll, Barry. “Introduction.” In The Eiffel Tower: A Photographic Survey. By Lucien Hervé, 7–16. New York: Princeton Architectural Press, 2003.

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    Bergdoll offers a concise introduction to the history of the tower and an overview of its afterlife in artistic and popular culture. He weaves this history together with the photographs of the tower taken by the Hungarian photographer Lucien Hervé beginning in 1938 and continuing for nearly half a century. (Hervé’s famously innovative photos are relevant to the theme of the Tower in the Visual Arts and Architectural History as well.)

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  • Braibant, Charles. Histoire de La Tour Eiffel. Paris: Librairie Plon, 1964.

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    Braibant’s is a detailed and forthright history seasoned by French Republican patriotism (special attention is given to the raising of the tricolore on 31 March) and unflagging admiration for the Colossus of 1889. His epigraph is “Paris, mais c’est la Tour Eiffel.” He tackles topics not found in other general histories, including the Tower in literature and art, a full accounting of the struggles and disputes that beset Eiffel and the Tower, and the Tower in science and war.

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  • Harriss, Joseph. The Tallest Tower: Gustave Eiffel and the Belle Époque. Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 1975.

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    Harriss’s book is a straightforward and accessible history which includes details that will be of particular interest to American readers, including, for example, Charles Lindbergh’s elegiac tribute to the Tower (that guided his 1927 landing in Paris) and the news that the Hancock Building in Chicago contains a small piece of the Tower put in place in 1968. He also includes a discussion of many technical details, including the lighting at the 1889 Fair (although there are a few factual errors).

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  • Jonnes, Jill. Eiffel’s Tower: The Thrilling Story behind Paris’s Beloved Monument and the Extraordinary World’s Fair That Introduced It. New York: Penguin Books, 2009.

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    A very readable popular history, whose narratives unfold in chronological order, focuses upon the most colorful characters involved in the 1889 Fair. Annie Oakley, Paul Gauguin, Thomas Edison, Buffalo Bill, Rosa Bonheur, Gustave Eiffel, and Arthur Edward, Prince of Wales, are featured.

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  • Kohle, Hubertus. “La Tour Eiffel, monument commémoratif de la Révolution française.” In Arts et société: Essais sur l’art français (1734–1889). By Hubertus Kohle, 217–237. Norderstedt, Germany: Books on Demand, 2009.

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    Kohle, a distinguished German art historian, argues that the form of the Eiffel Tower (being made of hundreds of more of less identical iron modules) instantiates and proclaims its politics. The argument that the Tower was openly democratic and egalitarian is lucid, but the analysis of the Tower’s structure leaves some room for dispute.

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  • Le Comte, Daniel. La Tour de Gustave Eiffel. Paris: Editions de Sénevé, 1969.

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    Le Comte’s history is a cogent and very helpful account of the selection, construction, and reputation of, and opposition to, Eiffel’s Tower.

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  • Lemoine, Bertrand. La Tour de Monsieur Eiffel. Paris: Éditions Gallimard, 1989.

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    This slim and lushly illustrated volume by an eminent architectural historian of the Eiffel Tower offers a comprehensive introduction for a general audience. Lemoine places Eiffel’s design within a framework of architectural precedents; traces responses to the Tower when it was first unveiled; documents the later evolution of the Tower into a cultural symbol; and provides a set of primary sources including critiques by artists, poets, architects, and later theorists, along with a selected filmography and bibliography.

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  • Loyrette, Henri. “The Eiffel Tower.” In Realms of Memory. Vol. 3, Symbols. Edited by Pierre Nora and Laurence D. Kritzman, 349–375 & 668–671. New York: Columbia University Press, 1998.

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    Loyrette’s chapter traces the proposal and construction of the Eiffel Tower for the 1889 exposition, asks how it became a symbol of both Paris and the French nation, and provides a succinct summary of the Tower’s construction and its position within both the development of iron architecture, and the secular politics of the Third Republic. Importantly, he shows that Eiffel was not alone in developing the design: it was devised by two other engineers in his firm, Nougier and Koechlin.

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  • Lyonnet du Moutier, Michel. L’Aventure de la Tour Eiffel: Realisation et financement. Paris: Publications de la Sorbonne, 2009.

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    Alone among major histories of the Tower, Lyonnet du Moutier’s account centers upon the vexed issues of cost and payment. In his words, the key categories of his economic analysis are Build, Operate, and Transfer. The account stresses the extraordinary risk that Eiffel shouldered insofar as he alone assumed responsibility for both the Tower’s construction and its financing.

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  • Seitz, Frédéric. La Tour Eiffel: Cent ans de solicitude. Paris: Belin-Herscher, 2001.

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    This is a focused study of the Eiffel Tower’s role in French culture from its inauguration at the 1889 Universal Exposition to the turn of the 21st century. Seitz blends historical analysis with quotations from a range of primary documents. He studies the Tower’s use as a site of scientific experimentation, its transformation by lights, and its integration into the French patrimony with the creation of the Société nouvelle de l’exploitation de la Tour Eiffel in 1980.

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  • Silverman, Debora L. “The 1889 Exhibition: The Crisis of Bourgeois Individualism.” Oppositions 8 (Spring 1977): 70–91.

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    Silverman considers the Tower to have been part of a conscious attempt by politicians to advance liberalism during a moment of political crisis in the Third Republic. She contends that the phantasmagoric spectacle of the Tower was a distraction staged by moderate republican sponsors to foreclose critical reflection on the political parallels between 1889 and the French Revolution of 1789. She also notes the contrast between modern exposition architecture and liberal individualism defined by privacy and the cluttered interior.

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  • Steiner, Frances H. French Iron Architecture. Ann Arbor: UMI Research Press, 1984.

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    Steiner traces the use of iron in building during the 19th century. She argues that this was one of the most significant scientific and aesthetic innovations in engineering during the period in spite of the fact that in the sphere of industrialization France lagged behind other European nations. The book situates the engineering principles of the Eiffel Tower within a longer historical development of iron structures such as bridges and viaducts.

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Gustave Eiffel, Engineer

The titles grouped together in this section focus on the individual most centrally associated with and implicated in the planning, construction, and maintenance of (and public relations for) the 300-Meter Tower of 1889 that eventually bore his name: the engineer Gustave Eiffel (b. 1832–d. 1923). In each book, the author produces a career narrative instead of a personal biography. The 2009 exhibition catalogue headed up by Caroline Mathieu is the most abundantly illustrated and interdisciplinary analysis of Eiffel’s career, its repercussions and representations.

  • Devance, Louis. Gustave Eiffel: La construction d’une carrière d’ingénieur. Dijon, France: Editions Universitaires de Dijon, 2016.

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    Devance covers Eiffel’s entire career stressing technology over biography, and construes the signing of the biggest industrial contract of the century, for the Panama Canal, as its professional apogee. His account of the origins of the Tower is especially detailed and useful, as is his description of the opposition, “Un conflit de culture,” which broaches a discussion of some of the most rebarbative language used against Eiffel (German, Jew, American). His categories, Eiffelomania versus Eiffelophobia, are especially incisive.

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  • Loyrette, Henri. Eiffel: Un ingénieur et son oeuvre. Fribourg, Switzerland: Office du Livre S.A., 1985.

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    The book is a solid and well-illustrated account of Eiffel’s career by a young art historian who paid careful attention to the Tower, its technology, reputation, and reception by visitors and artists.

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  • Mathieu, Caroline, ed. Gustave Eiffel: Le magicien du fer. Paris: Éditions Skira Flammarion, 2009.

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    With contributions from an art historian (Granet), an architectural historian (Lemoine), and curators (Peter and Mathieu), this interdisciplinary exhibition catalogue places the Tower within the context of Eiffel’s life and engineering projects. It includes myriad artworks, photographs, drawings, and other ephemera related to the Tower and its construction. Moreover, the book includes a wide range of scholarship and imagery related to Eiffel’s family history, his later laboratory in Auteuil, and the enduring presence of the Tower in French visual culture. Catalogue accompanied an exhibition at the Hôtel de Ville, 7 May to 29 August 2009.

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  • Seitz, Frédéric. Gustave Eiffel: Le triomphe de l’ingénieur. Paris: Armand Colin, 2014.

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    This rigorous biography departs from others that mythologize the engineer. Seitz contextualizes Eiffel’s career within broader cultural shifts surrounding the education, practice, and cultural visibility of engineering in the latter half of the 19th century, emphasizing the increasing division between the supposedly artistic profession of architecture and the technical practice of engineering, arguing for industrial design’s aesthetic potential. Seitz tracks the highlights of Eiffel’s career: the construction of the Tower (1887–1889) and the subsequent scandalous affair of the Panama Canal.

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  • Yeatman-Eiffel, Sylvain. Qui suis-je? Eiffel. Grez-sur-Loing, France: Pardès, 2017.

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    The most recent study of Eiffel’s life and work is authored by a member of the family, the honorary president of The Association of Descendants of Gustave Eiffel. His book, a slim and richly illustrated volume, is an altogether professional and accessible account if an undisguisedly hagiographic treatment of his famous ancestor and his accomplishments.

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Transnational Perspectives

Four extraordinarily ambitious articles by four art historians placed the image and impact of the Eiffel Tower in a context of transnational competition. Cordulack, Kouwenhoven, and Valance explore scenarios in which the Franco-American rivalry was intense: 1) the 1886 Statue of Liberty versus the 1889 Eiffel Tower, 2) the 1893 Chicago Ferris Wheel versus the 1889 Eiffel Tower, and 3) the 1893 Chicago Exposition versus the Exposition Universelle of 1889. Mainardi explores a Franco-British contest: the 1889 Eiffel Tower versus the 1867 English Lighthouse.

  • Kouwenhoven, John. “The Eiffel Tower and the Ferris Wheel.” Arts Magazine 54.6 (February 1980): 170–173.

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    Kouwenhoven’s remit is the competitive art of metal structures, in which he places the colossal 1893 Chicago wheel versus the enormous 1889 French tower. He underscores their similarity in that they both served a double function: as observation posts and as monuments of engineering skill. He argues that the two important engineering structures should be discussed comparatively inasmuch as they sum up European and American achievements in art and industry near the end of the 1800s.

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  • Mainardi, Patricia. “The Eiffel Tower and the English Lighthouse.” Arts Magazine 54.7 (March 1980): 141–144.

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    Mainardi argues that the controversy surrounding the Eiffel Tower in 1889 was adumbrated by the contest between the skeletal metallic English lighthouse, lit by electric light, and the more conventional and classical French lighthouse (phare), fueled by oil light, both erected on the Champ de Mars for the 1867 Exposition Universelle. Many of the terms used to denounce the openwork English structure (“monstrous”) in 1867 were reused to denounce Eiffel’s tower of iron in 1889.

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  • Valance, Hélène. “White City vs. La Ville Lumière: Electrical Displays at the World’s Columbian Exposition, Chicago.” In Is Paris Still the Capital of the Nineteenth Century? Essays in Art and Modernity, 1850–1900. Edited by Hollis Clayson and André Dombrowski, 171–187. New York: Routledge, 2016.

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    Valance expertly traces the fin-de-siècle Paris-Chicago competition within the conjoined spheres of electricity and Worlds’ Fairs and within the broader context of pitched Franco-American competition in those years. She frames her discussion by noting that Worlds’ Fairs spurred international competition, and gradually undermined Parisian supremacy. Her key point: the World Columbian Exposition of 1893 outshone the 1889 French fair in the register of light. Chicago 1893 had ten times more light than Paris 1889.

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  • Wood Cordulack, Shelley. “A Franco-American Battle of Beams: Electricity and the Selling of Modernity.” Journal of Design History 18.2 (2005): 147–166.

    DOI: 10.1093/jdh/epi021Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Cordulack argues boldly that graphic images of the American Statue of Liberty (erected in 1886) and the French 300-Meter Tower (constructed in 1889) were meant to compete, and that, despite US leadership in the technology and application of electricity, French graphic artists successfully “sold” the image of the electric light in art in France as comparatively more dazzling and advanced than the illuminations of the United States. The imagery thus worked to secure the French capital’s title as the “Ville Lumière.”

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The Tower as Icon

The Eiffel Tower is often called an urban icon. Indeed Schwartz calls it the first urban icon (backed up by her text co-written with Ethington). The Tower also functions as the symbol or leading sign of Paris and France. The readings gathered here explore diverse aspects of its iconic status and symbolic stature. Among the most theoretical accounts, Barthes mounted an influential semiological reading of the monument, Gaillard emphasized the Tower’s paradoxical status in modernity, and Thompson examined multiple literary records of its symbolic status. Boissel studied what would have been the centrality of the Tower as a lure in a planned wartime copy of the city, Mathieu and Thiébault examined the domain of Tower-shaped souvenirs, and Schor investigated the role of the early postcard in securing the power of the monument.

  • Barthes, Roland. La Tour Eiffel. Paris: Delpire, 1964.

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    This seminal interpretation does not focus on the Tower itself so much as its status as a symbol. Barthes describes the Tower as a “pure signifier” that does not, and could never, have the utilitarian functions ascribed to it by Eiffel. Rather the Tower exerts its power in the human imaginary via the spectacle of Paris space perceived from above. For Barthes, the emptiness of the Eiffel Tower is not a negative attribute, but the keystone of its allure. Translated by Richard Howard as The Eiffel Tower and Other Mythologies (New York: Hill and Wang, 1979).

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  • Boissel, Xavier. Paris est un leurre: La véritable histoire du faux Paris. Paris: Éditions Inculte, 2012.

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    At the end of WWI, the French government planned the construction of a copy of Paris NE of the city intended to lure German pilots away from bombing the real city. This project demonstrates that the iconic electrified Tower was construed as a beacon for hostile pilots. Boissel’s book also investigates how this plan presaged the postmodernist philosophical concepts of the “phantom” (Anders), the “pseudo-event” (Boorstin), the “spectacle” (Debord), and the “simulacrum” (Baudrillard).

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  • Ethington, Philip J., and Vanessa R. Schwartz. “Introduction: An Atlas of the Urban Icons Project.” Urban History 33.1 (2006): 5–19.

    DOI: 10.1017/S096392680600349XSave Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Originally conceived of as a conference, this introduction provides a framework for the history and analysis of “urban icons.” Ethington and Schwartz define urban icons as “signs born when symbols become images but are not thereafter limited to their incarnation as images.” They argue that this model opens new modes of analysis; for instance, the connection between the construction of the Eiffel Tower in Paris and the skyscraper race in New York twenty years later.

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  • Gaillard, Françoise. “La Tour Eiffel ou les paradoxes de la modernité.” Revue des Sciences Humaines 94.218 (April–June 1990): 117–132.

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    In this article, Gaillard uses the range of criticism by artists, architects, and writers that surrounded the Eiffel Tower to explain the paradoxical character of modernity as an artistic concept. From these critical responses, Gaillard argues that the tower is a premature product of modernity (though the essay does not provide a definition of modernity). This results from the Tower’s “monstrous” inutility that unifies art and industry in ways that would be associated with modernism in the 20th century.

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  • Mathieu, Caroline, and Philippe Thiébault. La Tour Eiffel: Curiosités et autres babioles autour de 1900. Bilingual ed. Paris: Musée d’Orsay, 2009.

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    This is the catalogue for an exhibition that focused on the manifold ways the Eiffel Tower was taken up in French material and visual culture. Drawn largely from the collection of the antiques dealer Antonin Rispal, the exhibition included “knick-knacks and other trinkets” ranging from photographs and prints to jewelry boxes and candlesticks. This catalogue speaks to the Tower’s iconic status through the abundance of its representation and reproduction.

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  • Schor, Naomi. “‘Cartes Postales’: Representing Paris 1900.” Critical Inquiry 18.2 (Winter 1992): 188–244.

    DOI: 10.1086/448630Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Schor’s article situates the rise of the postcard within broader French critical theoretical approaches to disciplinary society (Foucault), controlled societies (Deleuze), and theories of collecting (Benjamin). It includes a history of the postcard, attending to its gendered and colonial dimensions and its role in affirming metropolitan power. The Eiffel Tower appears as part of how Paris was represented in the form of postcards; part of a construction of the metropolis as an icon of both domestic and imperial power.

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  • Schwartz, Vanessa. “Urban Icons: The Eiffel Tower, 2006.

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    Part of the larger urban icons project edited by Schwartz and Ethington (see Ethington and Schwartz 2006), this entry emphasizes the centrality of the postcard in defining the Eiffel Tower as “the founding object in the history of ‘modern urban icons.’” The entry provides a concise history of the Tower’s construction, exhibition, and emergence as a cultural icon as well as a brief analysis of subsequent interpretations of the tower (most notably that of Roland Barthes).

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  • Thompson, William. “‘The Symbol of Paris’: Writing the Eiffel Tower.” The French Review 73.6 (May 2000): 1130–1140.

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    Thompson’s analysis pays particular attention to written accounts of the Eiffel Tower and its symbolic function from its initial appearance in the Paris skyline, to modernist literary evocations of the tower, and finally to the Tower’s status as universal symbol. The article offers a survey of literary responses to the Tower that point to the complexity of its identity as a cultural icon and symbol of Paris.

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The Tower in the Visual Arts and Architectural History

This section assembles broad studies from diverse fields, as well as targeted monographic art and film histories that investigate representations of the Tower in a wide range of art media.

Broad Multi-Issue Studies

Work from a range of disciplinary perspectives appears here. Grigsby places the Eiffel Tower within a framework that conjoins colossal engineering and imperialist politics, Levin argues that the image of the Tower was put to specific political use by the Third Republic government, and Loyrette wrote one of the first synthetic accounts of representations of the Tower in the visual arts.

  • Grimaldo Grigsby, Darcy. “Eiffel’s Emptiness Volume/Mass.” In Colossal: Engineering the Suez Canal, Statue of Liberty, Eiffel Tower, and Panama Canal. By Darcy Grimaldo Grigsby, 94–121 & 186–189. New York: Prestel, 2012.

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    The chapter cited is part of a beautifully produced large-format volume that combines art and architectural history with the history of technology, economics, and politics to highlight the imperial, economic, and aesthetic complexities of colossi that are often overlooked. In addition to its attention to mathematical and engineering developments, Grigsby’s discussion of the Tower opens onto the broader sociocultural implications of the translation of drawing into 3-D structure at a time when Western modernism and imperialism coincided.

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  • Levin, Miriam. When the Eiffel Tower Was New: French Visions of Progress at the Centennial of the Revolution. South Hadley, MA: Mt. Holyoke College Art Museum, 1989.

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    Levin’s essay in the catalogue of an exhibition of fin-de-siècle fine art prints and photographs argues that officials of the Third Republic aimed at educating French citizens to face industrialization by controlling technological change, and, that as part of this project, they used the iron Tower and related commercial print culture “to create an industrial community in which new technologies would generate new psychological, social, and economic bonds” (p. 12).

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  • Loyrette, Henri. “Images de la Tour Eiffel (1884–1914).” In 1889: La Tour Eiffel et l’Exposition Universelle. Edited by Caroline Mathieu, 196–219. Paris: Éditions de la Réunion des Musées Nationaux, 1989.

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    Loyrette’s was one of the first decisive accounts of artistic responses to Eiffel’s Tower, noting that prior to the series by Delaunay (1910s), modernist visual artists (with the exceptions of Seurat, Signac, and Rousseau) did not select the Tower as a subject. He observed that the eventual “pictorial glory” of the Tower coincided with the decline of its fortune; photographers, on the other hand, including Durandelle and Rivière, represented the new structure with alacrity even before it was complete.

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Painting, Printmaking, Photography, and Film

This section assembles modern studies of the visualization of the Tower in a range of media. Leading scholarship on the work of the four key visual artists who engaged the Tower early on in the media of printmaking and painting is compiled here. Those artists are Robert Delaunay (b. 1885–d. 1941), Auguste Lepère (b. 1849–d. 1918), Henri Rivière (b. 1864–d. 1951), and Georges Seurat (b. 1859–d. 1891). Studies of photographs and films of the Tower are also enumerated, including accounts of photographs by Émile Zola (b. 1840–d. 1902) and Henri Rivière (the printmaker who was also a pioneering photographer), and films by René Clair (b. 1898–d. 1981) among others.

  • Bazgan, Nicoleta. “The Eiffel Tower: A Parisian Film Star.” In Paris in the Cinema: Beyond the Flâneur. Edited by Alistair Phillips and Ginette Vincendeau, 17–25. London: Palgrave, 2018.

    DOI: 10.1057/978-1-84457-820-7_2Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    This essay is a theoretically astute account of the allure of the Tower for and in the cinema. She underscores the Tower’s intriguing opaqueness, which has “constantly challenged the representation and experience of Parisian space” (p. 17). She provides an overview of its representations, and then focuses in upon three key films: René Clair’s Paris qui dort, Julien Duvivier’s Le Mystère de la Tour Eiffel, and Louis Malle’s Zazie dans le metro.

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  • Berger, Christoph. “Epilogue: The Eiffel Tower.” In Georges Seurat: Figure in Space. Edited by Christopher Becker and Julia Burckhardt Bild, 138. Ostfildern, Germany: Hatje Cantz Verlag, 2009.

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    Berger, the director of the Zürich Kunsthaus, argues that Seurat’s 1889 painting of the Tower was an expression of his admiration for an extraordinary work of engineering, and that he represented the technical achievement in a novel aesthetic way: by using a new painting technique. Accompanied an exhibition at the Zürich Kunsthaus, 2009–2010.

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  • Bolloch, Joëlle. The Eiffel Tower. Paris: Musée d’Orsay, 2005.

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    The sixty-two plates reproduce the photographs dating from 1887 to c. 1925 that comprised an exhibition which was part of the series “Photography at the Musée d’Orsay.” Bolloch’s essay stresses the importance of the conjunction of iron and photography, a symbiotic coming-together that helped to shape the practice of photography in the era of the Eiffel Tower. The Tower’s construction site, from 1887 to 1889, was indeed a very busy and important photographic space.

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  • Clayson, Hollis. “The Ornamented Eiffel Tower: Awareness and Denial.” nonsite 27 (11 February 2019).

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    Clayson discusses artists' and writers' responses to the Tower in light of its 1889 lacey scalloped ornament contrasted with its stripped-down post-1937 appearance. Lithographs by Henri Rivière, Les trente-six vues de la Tour Eiffel, are featured in an eco-critical analysis, which also discusses paintings by Georges Seurat and Paul Signac.

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  • Conley, Tom. Cartographic Cinema. Minneapolis and London: University of Minnesota Press, 2007.

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    Conley, an eminent film historian, gives detailed attention to the first non-documentary film that starred the Eiffel Tower, René Clair’s Paris qui dort (The Crazy Ray), filmed in three weeks during the summer of 1923. According to this analysis, the film exemplifies Icarian Cinema, referring to the role of the work’s protagonist, a night watchman who guards the Tower and climbs down to explore the almost empty city, victim of a life-freezing ray.

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  • Émile-Zola, Francois, and Massin. Zola Photographer. New York: Henry Holt, 1988.

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    Novelist-critic Émile Zola was a passionate amateur photographer. In the eight years before his death in 1902, he took thousands of photos with his ten cameras. This volume includes a stunning image, which is highly unusual among photos of the Tower at night and is also a rare night shot by Zola: a close-up and partly cropped picture of the colossal structure ablaze with its new electric illumination during the Exposition Universelle of 1900.

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  • Fields, Armand. Henri Rivière. Paris: Editions Hubschmid et Bouret, 1985.

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    This contains a helpful account of Rivière’s Eiffel Tower project, noting that it was underway as early as 1888. Fields elucidates the artist’s eschewal of woodblocks, noting that the achievement of his goal (thirty-six images in five colors printed in an edition of 550) would have required 99,000 passages through the press. He also underscores the collaborative nature of the project: it included Arsène Alexandre, George Auriol, and Eugène Verneau.

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  • Foa, Michelle. “Postscript: The Eiffel Tower as Urban Lighthouse.” In Georges Seurat: The Art of Vision. By Michelle Foa, 197–203 & 225–226. New Haven, CT, and London: Yale University Press, 2015.

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    Foa productively delineates the unusual traits of Seurat’s The Eiffel Tower. It falls outside his usual genres, landscape and figures, and it was neither a study nor ever exhibited as a finished painting. As such, very unusually for the artist, it straddles the categories of study and finished picture. Her discussion of it as a “model of vision” is strong. Likewise, her noting the Tower’s similarity to a lighthouse is important and could be expanded.

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  • Fossier, François. Auguste Lepère ou le renouveau du bois grave. Paris: Réunion des Musées Nationaux, 1992.

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    Fossier’s small catalogue (“un dossier du Musée d’Orsay”) presents a narrative of Lepère’s career, and supplies a useful explanation of medium technologies, focusing upon wood engraving (Lepère’s specialty).

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  • Fossier, François, Françoise Heilbrun, and Philippe Néagu. Henri Rivière graveur et photographe. Paris: Musée d’Orsay, 1988.

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    This is the catalogue of an ambitious exhibition that gave equal weight to Rivière’s photography and printmaking. Heilbrun and Néagu’s discussion of his surprising photographs is comprehensive and well illustrated; it includes his innovative shots of the Eiffel Tower under construction, which the authors rightly call Rodchenko avant la lettre. Fossier’s discussion of his prints is impressively multi-technique, but Rivière’s trademark volume of lithographed views of the Eiffel Tower was represented in this show by only one plate (no. 24).

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  • Hughes, Gordon. Resisting Abstraction: Robert Delaunay and Vision in the Face of Modernism. Chicago and London: University of Chicago Press, 2014.

    DOI: 10.7208/chicago/9780226159232.001.0001Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    This philosophical book is a novel intervention in the discussion of Delaunay’s stylized pictures of the Tower. Hughes argues the Tower was enlisted by the artist within a project of representing vision itself, at the structural level. Delaunay “presents us with a view of the tower that serves as both an image of seeing and image of the structure of seeing” (p. 56). The keystone of the argument: “the Eiffel Tower represents, for Delaunay, the cognitive role of modern vision” (p. 71).

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  • Rivière, Henri. Les trente-six vues de la Tour Eiffel. Paris: Éditions du Seuil, 2011.

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    The book is a replica of Rivière’s volume of thirty-six lithographs of views of the Tower published in 1902; all aspects (including the original typography and ornament) are faithfully reproduced. The essay by Ganz and Breuer (“Postface: Une création en hommage à la Tour” [pp. 93–105]) argues that Rivière’s attitude toward the Tower was diametrically opposed to that of the cynical Maupassant. They probe his Hokusai-centered japonisme, explaining that he was a second-generation enthusiast, and call his volume the last of the great works of European japonisme. First published in 1902 (Paris: n.p.).

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  • Rivière, Henri. Les détours du chemin: Souvenirs, notes et croquis, 1864–1951. Paris: Éditions Équinoxe, 2004.

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    Rivière’s memoir is a witty account of key events in his life as an artist. Two episodes are most relevant. He offers a detailed description of his visits to the Eiffel Tower construction site, which he photographed extensively beginning in 1887, and comments on the hard labor he exerted in his printer Verneau’s studio, where he discovered that emulating the Japanese process of woodblock cutting and printing was too difficult. He adopted lithography instead.

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  • Rosenthal, Mark. Visions of Paris: Robert Delaunay’s Series. New York: Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, 1997.

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    Rosenthal argues that the Eiffel Tower itself was at the heart of all four of Delaunay’s series (1909–1914), appearing in at least nine paintings and many works on paper. It has “the role of a mantra in Delaunay’s art.” Always shown from the vantage point of a window, the pictures combine interior and exterior spaces. The artist called them “visions of catastrophic insight” to capture their interpenetration of volume and space, and evocation of the colossal scale of the Tower.

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  • Schapiro, Meyer. “Seurat.” In Modern Art 19th & 20th Centuries: Selected Papers. By Meyer Schapiro, 101–109. New York: George Braziller, 1978.

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    Schapiro’s important essay, not as prominent in art history as it should be, argues that there was a tight bond between the forms of the Tower and the divided strokes that Seurat used to define it in his small 1889 painting (9½ʺ × 6ʺ). Per Schapiro: “For Seurat the tower was a congenial work of art of which he had anticipated the forms in his own painting . . . . we could call him appropriately the Master of the Eiffel Tower” (p. 107). First published 1955.

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  • Sueur-Hermel, Valerie. Henri Rivière: Entre impressionnisme et japonisme. Paris: BnF (Bibliothèque Nationale de France), 2009.

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    The handsome catalogue contains essays by five scholars. Sueur-Hermel provides a detailed account of Rivière’s printmaking practice that includes a discussion of his engagement with La Société des Peintres-Graveurs beginning in 1890. Bouquillard tackles the balance between Rivière’s homage to the works of Hiroshige and Hokusai and his naturalist depictive side in the Eiffel Tower lithographs (1902) and his Paysages parisiens (1900). The volume contains the best-quality and most comprehensive set of published reproductions of Rivière’s graphic works.

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  • Vital, Christophe. Auguste Lepère, 1849–1918. San-Sébastien, France: ACL Édition, Société Crocus, Conservation Departementale des Musées de la Vendée, 1988.

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    An overview of Lepère’s career that considers the Exposition Universelle of 1889 a milestone in the career of the artist, in light of the atmospherically rich series of wood engravings he made of and for the occasion. Lepère shifted to other printmaking technologies (including etching and lithography) thereafter. Catalogue accompanied a 1988 exhibition at Musée Vendeen, Fontenay-le-Comte, France.

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Iconography and Document Collections

Images of the Eiffel Tower are legion and continue to proliferate in French visual culture. The titles collected here provide the opportunity to experience Tower imagery in all its variety and richness. The 2016 collective anthology of writings is an astute collage of a century of texts about the Tower, Cate’s exhibition catalogue is a serious interrogation of a range of pictures and documents, and the volumes assembled by Landon, Lanoux and Hamy, and Pasteur enable an immersion in the cornucopia of visual images in different genres and moods in circulation since 1889.

  • Anthologie collective. La Tour Eiffel vue par les écrivains. Paris: Nouvelles Éditions Scala, 2016.

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    An exceptionally useful and attractive small-format anthology of writings on the Eiffel Tower illustrated with a range of visual depictions. It covers one hundred years by opening with the notorious 1887 protest against the Tower by a group of French artists published in Le Temps, and concluding with a poetic text by George Perec dated 1987.

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  • Cate, Phillip Dennis. The Eiffel Tower: A Tour de Force, Its Centennial Exhibition. New York: Grolier Club, 1989.

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    Cate’s impressive assembly of extremely diverse visual materials marked the Tower’s hundredth birthday. It also appeared in Paris at the Mona Bismarck Foundation. The catalogue opens with Cate’s overview of artists’ representations of the Tower, reminding us they were few and far between prior to Robert Delaunay. The artworks gathered together, mostly commercial and popular along with photos and some paintings, were both varied and surprising. This valuable catalogue also reproduces excerpts from twenty relevant period documents and texts.

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  • Landon, François. La Tour Eiffel superstar. Paris: Editions Ramsay, 1981.

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    A vivid and often amusing compilation of Tower images and documents, the picture-laden volume is divided into twenty-two chapters, many of which have witty titles. For example, chapters include “Peindre la giraffe” and “300 mètres d’image,” the latter arguing that the Tower is perhaps the most filmed monument in the world.

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  • Lanoux, Armand, and Viviane Hamy, eds. La Tour Eiffel. Paris: Éditions de la Différence, 2010.

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    The volume contains a riot of pictures and excerpts from an enormous range of primary texts (attributed to generalized sources), all French. Everything from period caricature to popular prints, diagrams, photographs, posters, wood engravings from period newspapers, oil paintings, drawings, and fine art prints are reproduced. Lanoux opens the lively volume with a fanciful essay, “Un certain Monsieur Eiffel.” Elsewhere, the 192-page compilation carries quotes from diverse texts: from Huysmans, Maupassant, and Gauguin to Romi, Barthes, and Kerouac.

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  • Pasteur, Claude. La Tour Eiffel, Fac-Sim no. 3. Bern, Switzerland: Para Invest, 1967.

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    This is an oversized envelope of reproductions of graphic items from the Belle Époque that cover both the history of the Tower and the life of Gustave Eiffel. A huge red Table of Contents enumerates its nineteen documents. Included in the collection are replicas of everything from photographs and a children’s game (un image d’Épinal) to a menu, postcards, plans of the Tower, the first article written about the Tower (in 1884), un permis d’ascension, and so on.

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