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Paris: The Biography of a City

by Colin Jones

Walks Through Lost Paris: A Journey Into the Heart of Historic Paris

About the Book

When he discovered that the city he lived in for many years was actually entirely rebuilt during the mid-1800s, Leonard Pitt plunged into Paris's history and began photographing what he learned had changed. Eventually, he led tours and gave lectures on the demolition and reconstruction that changed the city forever. Walks Through Lost Paris chronicles Paris's great periods of urban reconstruction through four walking tours. With a special focus on the work of Georges-Eugene Haussmann, this book provides a history of each site along with the motives behind the urban redesign and the reactions of Parisians who witnessed it. Detailed maps take you through a city whose changes were captured by photographers and artists in each stage. Hundreds of color photos, diagrams, and engravings splendidly survey the massive transformation that resulted in the Paris of today.

Between 1853 and 1879, hundreds of Medieval and ancient streets disappeared in Paris. Nearly 20,000 buildings were demolished and 45,000 new buildings constructed in their place. Much of the city's history was lost as Medieval and Renaissance quarters crumbled. The island on which Notre Dame de Paris sits (the Île de la Cité) was nearly leveled. Many of the large avenues and boulevards famous today as symbolic of Paris were actually created durign the great urban upheaval of Napoleon III's Second Empire (1852-1871) and reconstruction following the Paris Commune catastrophe (1871) leading into the Belle Epoque. Leonard Pitt's devoted and brilliant research helps us rediscover lost ages of the City of Lights.

About the Author

Leonard Pitt left a career in advertising in 1963 to study mime in Paris with Etrienne Decroux. In 1970, he returned to the U.S. and directed a school of physical theater for eighteen years, attracting students from around the world. He has performed and taught throughout the U.S., Europe, and Asia. He lives in Berkeley, California.


FIVE STARS (Jean-Thomas Cullen, Paris Bookshop)—This is an exceptional find for history enthusiasts. I treasure this book. No student of French or Parisian history should be without it. You'll see the alley where Peter Abélard (1079-1142) walked to visit his wealthy young student and bride Héloïse d'Argenteuil, whom he married only to be castrated on orders of her father and both consigned to monastic life—terrible but true, a major Paris saga and their letters of love and philosophy have survived to be read today. You'll see the Roman arena (Arènes de Lutèce) hidden(when I first stumbled on it in 2001, behind a laundromat on the Rue Monge). You'll see many current attractions as their locations looked before their creation. The list is endless; where do I stop? Find out for yourself. A Highly recommended resource.

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FIVE STARS (Heather, reader at Amazon)—Magnifique! A truly unique and fascinating book. As an avowed Francophile, I travel to Paris as often as I can. I own maybe 15 'walking tour' books, but this is by far my favorite. Pitt peppers his narrative with bits of history, architectural explanations—and even the occasional cultural observation. As a result, his walks provide a deep understanding of the people and events that shaped Paris into the city it is today. And the photos: I can only imagine the countless hours of research that went into comparing the historical documents with the modern street views. The result is an extraordinary record of the city's transformation, unlike any other I've seen. If you want to move beyond the monuments and experience the true heart of historic Paris, I highly recommend this book. To me, it's a masterpiece.

FIVE STARS (MarilynAnn, reader at Amazon)—Next-step Paris. After you have seen the main sights in Paris, this is the next step for history buffs. It is a very well-defined and documented walk through all the pre-Houssmann streets and buildings of the city. Wish it were formatted as a Kindle book but it is so good that we take the paperback with us.

From Paris Bookshop: Online retailers have many reviews like this for Mr. Pitt's outstanding book.