objects of desire

bonjour chère friends. i’m in a romantic mood tonight. after taking over 300 photos today i’m narrowing it down to the highlight of the day. as usual i was digging through papers in old boxes and stumbled on over 100 love letters written by a prolific jeune homme to the object of his affection, mademoiselle gabrielle. she must have been some special lady. or a femme fatale.

the letters span from 1898 to 1909 (so far, i haven’t even checked them all). everything about them is incredible from the stationery to the handwriting, to the few he seemed to write in code with criss crossed precision, making them a little hard to read. claudia II thinks maybe this was a clandestine romance. one thing is sure, he was creative and devoted. maybe they’re a little risque? i can’t read them well and want to have a french friend translate.

as a hopeless romantic this was a goldmine to discover and i can’t help but imagine who these lovers were and why they were separated for so long.  mlle gabrielle must have kept these letters for years and i wonder how this treasure ended up in a box at the flea market.

maybe there were no children to treasure them (that would make sense if they were separated  ;p

but i’ll keep studying them and see what i can decipher. for now, i knew you’d enjoy them as much as i did and will keep you posted when i get a few translated and try to put their love story together. have a wonderful weekend with the ones you love!

May 22, 2010. Dreams, Ephemera, Fleamarkets, France, Living, Marché aux Puces, Paris, Paris Flea Markets.


  1. Nita replied:

    Oh…how beautiful! I can’t wait till you find out what they say. So nice that now you have them and an appreciate them.


  2. escapade replied:

    Oh this is just impossibly romantic – you should frame some of them!


  3. Shell Sherree replied:

    What a beautiful treasure trove. There is just nothing like the romance of handwritten messages on real paper. The script is exquisite and the criss-cross code adds more magic to the mystery.


  4. starrydeborah replied:

    I am now swooning!!!


  5. Kimberly Taylor replied:

    okay, that is my perfect gift – discovering a treasure box filled with something that magical! thanks for sharing them – what a treat~

    ps – LOVE your blog


  6. Dawn @ The Feathered Nest replied:

    oh.my.goodness….these letters are just GORGEOUS!!! Hon…you could scan and sell copies of these amazingly beautiful pieces of ephemera ~ I’m in love with them!!! xxoo, Dawn


  7. theparisapartment replied:

    hi guys it’s 7:30 here and we’re about to head out so i have a second to say hi and am so glad you love them too! i was going to sell them but feel bad breaking them up…you want me to scan them? great idea!


  8. Nicole replied:

    Oh, don’t break them up! That would be a tragic loss! They are so beautiful – perhaps you could sell the “pattern” of a few of the most unique along with the paper color hue, and a paper maker could make it into stationary or scrapbooking paper? You (or someone) could keep the originals, but use them as templates for cool wallpaper, even or fabric. They look like gorgeous Easter eggs!


  9. anna replied:

    oh wow, what an amazing find!! Just to find one love letter from that era would be pretty special, and you found over 100 of them! I imagine reading through those letters would be very interesting. Thank you for sharing with us!


  10. Riite replied:

    What a fantastic find!


  11. shelley t replied:

    oh my god, so beautiful. this is something very special, i can’t wait for you to find out more about them.


  12. Chatelaine replied:

    The handwriting is gorgeous. I don’t care what it says, it is a work of art as is. Although I am just a tad curious about Gabrielle and her mystery lover. Do keep us posted!


  13. Virginia replied:

    OMG!!! Please don’t break them up, you were meant to find them and what a beautiful find. I especially love the one that is written then crosshatched with more writing.
    Can’t wait to hear more, please keep us posted.


  14. Danitscha replied:

    That’s amazing, I can’t believe you found something like this.


  15. doktorsorcharoot replied:

    Lovely…for what it’s worth…criss crossing words & names is a form of Magick. Maybe he was sending her a love spell! Just sayin’


  16. HTC Desire | GPS LOG replied:

    […] objects of desire « the paris apartment […]


  17. Claudia replied:

    These are so amazingly beautiful! The handwriting, the French words….oh how romantic! And I am intrigued by the criss cross – what was that all about, I wonder? Like you, I am a hopeless romantic.



  18. Throw the rice! « atelier cheri replied:

    […] ateliercheri 08:59 Paris Apartment dedicated her latest post to a box of love letters she found at a Paris flea market. It seemed like a great image to use as I […]


  19. Cris replied:

    Ooohhhhh – don’t break them up!!!!

    I’m sure one of us would be willing to keep them together, and at a good price. How very sweet – and just the thing I needed to take my mind off ‘things.’


  20. vicki replied:

    Thanks for stopping by too-I’m so new at this I need to learn a lot. But can I just say that I LOVE LOVE LOVE your blog so much? It speaks to my design soul and I’m looking forward to savoring every post of yours as I go through your archives. After my last visit to Paris this year, I promised myself I will back next year to spend the summer with my little girls. I’m still figuring out how to do it and your site (and many others linked to it) will keep my dream alive until it is a reality. I’m so thrilled to have found you. Thank you for the inspiration!


  21. Sarah @ Natural History (and Passementerie!) replied:

    How heavenly! Although I wonder if the same jeune homme was responsible for them all? Dimanche 1902 looks to be a different hand… was Gabrielle keeping her options open?

    I have some fabulous German letters that I found in France… keep your eyes open on Natural History when it opens in a couple of weeks for how I used them!


  22. Terri replied:



  23. Michele replied:

    What beautiful letters and handwriting – certainly they must stay together and it is so fortunate that they ended up with someone who would understand that. Regarding the crossed writing: I don’t know if it was still the custom by the end of the 19th century, but at the beginning of the century letters were relatively expensive to send and the postage was based on weight. It was common practice, therefore, to write across the initial letter in order to say more while using as few sheets as possible. (Even more important if using nice quality thick paper!) Jane Austen employed this method, as her letters were often rather long…


  24. Shanna replied:

    It is clear to me now after looking at the Oh-So-Beautiful…that you show on your blog.
    I-do-not-belong-in-Los Angeles.

    I seek escape in our sky. It does unite us all and we read into it as we will.

    Thank you for your lovely post after post.


  25. yvonne replied:

    That is what I call an interesting fine.
    I agree don’t break them up..



  26. The Armchair Parisian replied:

    Ooooh! What a treasure. How lucky of you to find these. Look forward to hearing what they say.


  27. Splendid Willow replied:

    Just found you via the lovely A Life More Fabulous. I feel at home here!

    What a treasure! And 100+ in one box – I would have been super excited with one! Frame the letter with the criss cross code – I have never seen anything like it. It is art with a lot of love.

    Happy week!

    ox, Monika


  28. Chris replied:

    Wonderful photos and letters! Was delighted to see the criss-cross writing! Don’t know if anyone mentioned it, but I understood that back then stationery was at a premium and so one wrote vertically, horizontally and diagonally to get as much into a letter as possible. I have one example from 1899 that has writing in all 4 directions. My grandmother told me the trick was stretching out the script so you could follow it over the other layers! At least that was her explanation


  29. le petit cabinet de curiosites replied:

    Love these old letters , so romantic


  30. maryann replied:

    oh, you got me on the words of ‘brocantes’ and ‘paris’ together. just feel like i am there with you too! found your web via bonjour romance and you guys look like you had a fun time together! loving your blog and will be coming soon and becoming one of your thousands of fans! have a lovely day in paris! (i know this sounds better in french- wish i can be a late import)…verbena cottage


  31. ann marie replied:

    So beautiful…on so many different levels. Enjoy!


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