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Yesterday, over an apricot and pistachio tart, a dear friend of mine suffered a stroke of inspiration and took me to one of the most delightful places in Paris: the Librairie Alain Brieux in Saint Germain. Before my eyes had time to take in the life-size papier-mâché orangutan, my nose was filled with that most delightful of smells: old books. The floor-to-ceiling shelves are filled with rare antique books on everything from physics and astronomy to medicine and chemistry. But even better than the books (raise your hand if you never thought I would admit that could be something better than a book) are the artifacts: anatomical models rendered in wax and papier-mâché; various skeletal bits; glass eyeballs; surprisingly intact rare optical toy kits; a frighteningly impressive speculum collection; and an electrostatic generator (no big deal).

Everything is for sale except for the alligator hanging from the ceiling, and while I couldn’t find a single thing under 900€, the shopkeeper let me touch and play with everything. If you’re in Paris and you need a nerdgasm, this is the place to go.

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