Location of the Café Musain

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ivrogne transfiguré
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Location of the Café Musain

Postby ivrogne transfiguré » Sun Jan 24, 2010 7:02 pm

I have discovered a new method of procrastination: virtually wandering around Paris on Google Street View. I know some of you are lucky enough to live there, but for the rest of us, we have to make do.

I was trying to recreate Grantaire’s walk from the Musain to Richefeu’s, when I got thinking about the exact location of the Musain. Marianne has, I realise, already done quite a bit of research on this, and his pinpointed its location as being where the Quality Burger Restaurant now stands.

While I don’t want to argue (or to suggest I know Paris any better than she does – I certainly don’t!), I couldn’t quite get this to match up with Hugo’s descriptions. This leaves me with three options:
a) I’m being very stupid and missing something;
b) Hugo got muddled up over the layout of the area;
c) The Café Musain wasn’t in fact quite where the burger place is now.
So, if you don’t mind, I’d just like to go over what I’ve been thinking and see what other people think. Feel free to correct me if I make any mistakes or wrong assumptions throughout this.

Hugo tells us that:
1. The Café Musain was a small café on the Place Saint-Michel (III.IV.I);
2. The back room was quite far from the main café, and connected by a long passage (III.IV.I);
3. The room had an exit by a private stairway to the rue des Grés (III.IV.I);
4. To get from the rue des Grés to the rue Monsieur-le-Prince one must cross the Place Saint-Michel (IV.I.VI).

It is easy enough to find the rough location of the Musain in modern Paris. We know that the place Saint-Michel is now called the place Edmond Rostand. I also found an article called ‘Where Delacroix Painted the “Massacres de Scio”’ by Lee Johnson, which says that the rue des Grés is now the rue Cujas:

But where was the rue des Grés no 16? First of all, it has to be said that it was not very close to the present place St-Michel, where Riesener's note led Joubin to search in vain, but it was near the Sorbonne and a little closer at its western end to the original place St-Michel, which has since become the place Edmond-Rostand. The rue des Grés (rue Cujas since 1865) ran from the rue St-Jaques to the rue de la Harpe (now the boulevard St-Michel). It was formed around 1800 by widening the passage des Jacobins and cutting through some of the buildings of the famous Dominican monastery known as the Couvent des Jacobins, after St James of Compostella.


This agrees with various maps which show the street before and after 1865, when its name was changed. It is therefore clear that it must be in the block which, in modern Paris, is bounded by the boulevard Saint-Michel, rue Soufflot, rue Victor Cousin and rue Cujas:

Image

There were two things that confused me about the area, which leads me to conclude that the original place Saint-Michel was larger than the current place Edmond Rostand:
1. Grantaire having to cross the square;
2. The size of the café.
In modern Paris, Grantaire would have to go out of his way in order to cross the square, as the rue Cujas leads onto the boulevard Saint-Michel, and walking down the boulevard, he would not reach the place Edmond Rostand before turning right into the rue Monsieur-le-Prince. Also, in modern Paris, the distance along the boulevard Saint-Michel between the place Edmond Rostand and the rue Cujas is a bit over 200m, which would make the long corridor between the main café and the back room very long indeed as it must extend from the square to the rue Cujas (it may be a little shorter if it doesn’t follow the line of the boulevard, but it would still be little less than 200m at its shortest), which seems both rather unlikely, and not to fit Hugo’s description of it as a small café.

I also compared modern Paris to maps from the period, which show the rue Monsieur-le-Prince leading directly into the place Saint-Michel next to the rue de la Harpe, which is now the boulevard Saint-Michel:

1831:
Image

1839:
Image

Therefore, the only conclusion I could come to was that the place Saint-Michel used to be much bigger and include some of the block which currently lies between the rue de Medicis and the boulevard Saint-Michel. Indeed, the 1839 map includes a bit at the bottom which seems to be the current place Edmond Rostand.

This suggests to me that the Musain was probably further along the boulevard Saint-Michel than the current burger restaurant, although I cannot be sure of an exact location, extending into that block, in which case it would be quite easy for the back room to have an exit leading onto the rue Cujas.

Of course, I may be completely wrong about this – feel free to point out any mistakes or to tell me if I'm being an idiot :wink:

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Col.Despard
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Re: Location of the Café Musain

Postby Col.Despard » Sun Jan 24, 2010 8:54 pm

Not at all - all this discussion about Parisian geography is terribly interesting to me, both as someone who has only hazy memories of time spent in Paris (I couldn't even pinpoint the hotel on a map) and as someone who generally has problems with georgraphy. The visual references are particularly appreciated, as I'm strongly visually orientated and tend to process information better if I can "see" it as opposed to reading or hearing written directions.
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Marianne
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Re: Location of the Café Musain

Postby Marianne » Sun Jan 24, 2010 11:33 pm

I think you're right. I'm not sure if the old Place Saint-Michel was bigger than the Place Edmond Rostand, or just further north, but you're right. Going by Tardieu's 1839 map, the upper cutoff of the square--i.e. where the Rue Monsieur-le-Prince ends--is approximately even with the Medici fountain in the Jardin du Luxembourg. You can see that on Google maps as the long thin strip of blue.

To find the lower cutoff, look at the Rue Soufflot on the 1831 map and mentally extend it until it touches the boulevard.

The current Place Edmond Rostand is centered on where the Rue Soufflot meets the boulevard, so it is definitely further south than the original Place Saint-Michel. I'm not sure it was bigger, though. It looks like it on the 1831 map, but the 1839 map marks the block formed by the Rue Vaugirard, the Rue Monsieur-le-Prince, and the edge of the Jardin du Luxembourg (modern-day Rue des Medicis) as a "Caserne," or barracks.

The other thing is that the Rue des Grès looks more-or-less straight on the old maps, but the modern-day Rue Cujas curves upward near the boulevard. The straightness could be a simplification on the old maps, but I'm inclined to think it isn't: the Tardieu map shows a lot of squiggly streets and the Rue des Grès isn't one of them, and on both of the old maps the Rue des Grès comes very close to intersecting the Rue Monsieur-le-Prince. The Rue Cujas does not. Mentally edit the curve out of the Rue Cujas and you've got something very close to where the Place Saint-Michel was.

On the subject of the long corridor: you mixed up your feet and meters on the Googlemaps scale. The longest possible length of the corridor (modern-day Rue Soufflot to modern-day Rue Cujas with the curve) is more like 80m, 50m if you correct for the curve. Still long, but not absurd. My college's study-abroad program is housed in one of those traditional ancient Parisian buildings with a courtyard in the middle, it's a huge building shared haphazardly by a bunch of universities, and it's full of narrow long-ass corridors connecting parts of the building that should not logically be connected, rooms/staircases that should connect to each other but don't, and other charmingly nonsensical division of spaces. I don't know how spaces were parcelled out to retail establishments in the 19th century, but if it's anything like this building, a 50m corridor running along the courtyard wouldn't particularly surprise me.

So let's say the Café Musain was anywhere between the Quality Burger Restaurant and halfway up the block (number 56 or 57 on the current blvd Saint-Michel).
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ivrogne transfiguré
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Re: Location of the Café Musain

Postby ivrogne transfiguré » Mon Jan 25, 2010 3:46 pm

Thanks. :D

I realise what I did with the scale: I didn't mix up feet and metres but, for some unknown reason, took it to be 1cm=100ft instead of 2cm!

I noticed discrepancies between the maps, like the shape of the rue des Gres, but I wasn't sure whether that was because it had been changed or simply because the older maps were less accurate/simplified.

@Col.Despard: Having a photographic memory, I know what you mean about visual references - it really helps to see what's being described, and makes it a lot easier to remember. I could also have described it using capital letters if that would have helped :wink:

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Re: Location of the Café Musain

Postby silverwhistle » Tue Aug 10, 2010 11:20 pm

I'm glad to hear this, because I was getting anachronistic mental images of the boys meeting in a burger bar, which is just a little… strange.
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Re: Location of the Café Musain

Postby Marianne » Wed Aug 11, 2010 1:07 am

At least the burger place serves food--and has a back room, even if there is a playground there. The other options on that block include a bank, a lingerie store, and various places where you can buy overpriced clothing that all looks the same and was probably produced in the same sweatshop.
[Dieu] entend ta voix, ô fille des hommes! aussi bien que celle des constellations; car rien n'est petit pour celui devant lequel rien n'est grand.

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Re: Location of the Café Musain

Postby Mlle Patria » Wed Aug 11, 2010 1:15 am

silverwhistle wrote:I'm glad to hear this, because I was getting anachronistic mental images of the boys meeting in a burger bar, which is just a little… strange.

What? You don't want fries with your sedition? :lol:
Sorry. Terrible joke. I know but, it popped into my head as soon as I read that. I suppose it's better than jokes that could be made about the lingerie shop...
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Re: Location of the Café Musain

Postby MmeJavert » Wed Aug 11, 2010 3:09 am

Isn't there a lingerie shop at what used to be the Corinthe? (I mean there's got to be a reason for my photo of a random lingerie shop in among the rest of my 'look the barricade was here' pics)
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Re: Location of the Café Musain

Postby silverwhistle » Wed Aug 11, 2010 11:49 am

MmeJavert wrote:Isn't there a lingerie shop at what used to be the Corinthe? (I mean there's got to be a reason for my photo of a random lingerie shop in among the rest of my 'look the barricade was here' pics)

I'm now picturing an 1832 revolutionary take on the Father Ted episode where Ted and the boys get lost in the lingerie section of a department store… ;-D
- Entends-tu? je t'aime! cria-t-il encore.
- Quel amour! dit la malheureuse en frémissant.
Il reprit: - L'amour d'un damné.

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Re: Location of the Café Musain

Postby MmeBahorel » Wed Aug 11, 2010 3:52 pm

I still like that Courfeyrac's address ended up a gay bar for a short time.
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Re: Location of the Café Musain

Postby 9430 » Wed Aug 11, 2010 10:55 pm

And isn't there a street practically opposite Courfeyrac's apartment called Les Mauvais Garçons? I laughed when I saw that.
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Rachelle
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Re: Location of the Café Musain

Postby Rachelle » Sun Feb 17, 2013 9:21 pm

Ok, I thought I was the only one who did this. Virtual holidays to Paris!!
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Acaila
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Re: Location of the Café Musain

Postby Acaila » Sun Feb 17, 2013 9:25 pm

Never mind the virtual, when I have the money, I am doing this for real! :oops:
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Re: Location of the Café Musain

Postby Rachelle » Sun Feb 17, 2013 10:55 pm

Well, until then, we'll have to stick with google maps.
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Re: Location of the Café Musain

Postby Rachelle » Tue Feb 19, 2013 11:05 pm

I've been glued to my google maps this last while, trying to work something out. I know that the road map of paris has changed loads since the 1830s but whereabouts on the (modern) rue saint-denis should the barricade in the book have been?
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