Disquaires de Paris traces the history of vinyl record retail in the French capital.
This past Saturday marked a major holiday for fans of music and old-school media—Record Store Day.
Held annually on the third Saturday of April, it's a time for passionate fans of vinyl to spend some time (and money) in indie record stores across the world. Given the bleak trajectory of the modern music industry, the holiday is a bit of a requiem. Nonetheless, people continue to come out in support. Vinyl records carry a sense of history and nostalgia for music connoisseurs, not to mention a unique sound.
For Paris-based record collector Thomas Henry, the history of vinyl is particularly fascinating. For years, he's been amassing 78 rpm records, shellac-based phonographic discs made between 1898 and 1950. He even runs a blog about this era of recorded music. Now, he's putting together a comprehensive map of the record stores that operated in Paris starting at the very end of 19th century and on into the first half of the 20th (the website is in French).
Disquaires de Paris (Record Stores of Paris) is an interactive guide to the city's record shop scene from 1890 through 1960, with archival materials that connect to each pinpointed store.
Using public archives, old Parisian phone books, and materials donated by collectors, Henry has uploaded an insignia or sign from every record store featured on the map. In the ad above, dating back to between 1905 and 1907, the French arm of the Edison Phonograph Company pitches their record players, which had been invented by Thomas Edison only two decades earlier.
Another nice function of the map is the option for users to look at changes over time. This offers a full display of how the number of record stores in Paris fluctuated over the course of the 20th century. The 1920s and 1930s were particularly golden years for record retail in Paris, Henry says. The neighborhood of Champs-Élysées, known for its wide avenues and heavy foot traffic, emerged in the early 1900s as a world-class shopping district. Still, by 1926 the area was bereft of any record stores, according to Henry. Three years later, however, six record stores had set up shop, an ode to a new boom of public interest in recorded music.
The website remains a work in progress. Henry says that there are likely record stores during this period that he and professional archivists have yet to discover. He plans on later expanding the map to include contemporary record stores, a function that will be useful for the remaining record nerds of Paris, but also possibly depressing as they continue to die off all over the world.
Get in touch with the Disquaires de Paris project here.
Top image: Disquaires de Paris.