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French erotica … at the library

From The Canadian Press:

Ribald and X-rated, a new exhibit at France’s national library is banned to anyone under 16.

The exhibit that opened this week offers a peek at France’s long-secret library of libido, where, starting in the 1830s, librarians hid books and other documents from the national collection that they deemed dangerous for public morality. They called it L’Enfer, or Hell, and kept it under lock and key.

In 1849, library director Joseph Naudet described L’Enfer as “a hiding place … in which we lock up certain books that are very bad but which are sometimes very precious for book-lovers and have a great monetary value.”

The historic secrecy surrounding the collection only fanned curiosity about it. L’Enfer still exists today – complete with its own special classification category – though it is much easier for patrons to gain access to works from the collection.

In a related move, the National Library of Canada is considering allowing its patrons to view its long-hidden collection of lithographs showing people in various states of temperance and moderation.