Éditions Louis Vuitton and Atelier EXB take us on a journey around the world in fifty true stories and onboard as many means of transportation. The book teems with vintage photographs.

Cruise in the norvegian fjords, in the 1930's © Bridgeman Images / colorization Sébastien de Oliveira

Even as the pandemic continues to limit our travels, Francesca Mattéoli whisks us away on a journey in time, across water, through the air, and along roads. Her book, published by Atelier EXB in collaboration with Louis Vuitton, brings together fifty illustrated stories featuring every possible means of transportation: hot air balloon, junk boat, automobile, space rocket, ocean liner, and zeppelin. As Francesca Mattéoli notes: “The creation and exploitation of any means of transportation is always in equal part fairytale and technology. It reflects the diversity of human thinking, crystallizes human motivation, desires, and the need to leave a trace in history.”

Arrival of the France at New York, after a five-day Atlantic crossing, around 1965 © Bridgeman Images / AGIP
The LZ 129 Hindenburg lands after a first test flight at Friedrichshafen, in Germany, in May 1936 © Bridgeman Images / Everett Collection / colorization Sébastien de Oliveira

The “fairytales” she tells reenchant our everyday conveyances and bring back to life some legendary vehicles fallen into disuse. We follow the photographer Nadar in his balloon, discover Japan at the turn of the twentieth century in a rickshaw, sail around Cape Horn aboard a clipper… “This is not an encyclopedic work, and requires no special skill. It does not deliver a mass of knowledge; it is not scientific, geographical, ethnological, meteorological, or whatever. It is just an excuse to take off, to escape into a world of dreams that had become reality, were recorded in history and in the collective imagination, transforming an era, our lives, and even our destinies,” explains the seasoned travel writer.

Henri Pecqueur, secretary-general of the raid, and the explorer Georges-Marie Haardt at the campsite of Hindi,
in Kashmir, around 1932 © Archives Louis Vuitton Malletier, Paris
Kenneth Shoesmith, Rio de Janeiro by Royal Mail to South America, around 1930-1935. Private collection © Bridgeman Images

A perfume of yesteryear wafts between the velvety pages. Period photographs, some in color, some colored, others in black and white or sepia, illustrate each chapter alongside engravings and old advertising posters. The colors are enhanced by the cream-colored satin paper. The book has a feel of old-fashioned luxury to it. Its orange edges are stenciled with the outlines of various contraptions that have marked our history. Orange accents crisscross the midnight blue cover, which evokes volumes expertly handled by bookbinders. One would expect nothing less from a book co-edited by Louis Vuitton. As “[t]he writer and poet Blaise Cendrars noted in his Feuilles de Route, ‘To depart… is to go to Vuitton’,” recalls travel historian Jean-Luc Toula-Breysse in the Foreword to the book. Since 1854, Louis Vuitton has followed the development of new means of transportation by designing trunks and luggage that have in turn accompanied explorers, artists, aristocrats, and adventurers in their journeys. We discover images from these globetrotters’ archives showing them hauling their belongings nestled in the famous monogrammed leather. Both the luggage designer and Francesca Mattéoli see travel above all as an ars vivendi, an art of living which this book makes us yearn for again.

 

By Laure Etienne

Laure Etienne is a Paris-based journalist and former member of the editorial team at Polka and ARTE.

 

Francesca Mattéoli, Voyages extraordinaire, Atelier EXB & Editions Louis Vuitton, €49, 448pp. In French.

 

Thérèse Bonney, Le Voyage en avion, around 1927. The suitcases with a V were customized by Gaston-Louis Vuitton. Paris, Louis Vuitton archives © Archives Louis Vuitton Malletier, Paris
Lucien Boucher, Air France, Antilles – Amérique centrale, 1948. Paris, Air France museum © Air France Collection – Air France museum, Paris
Elegant with her Alzer and Cotteville luggage, a duffle bag and a vanity-case en toile Monogram, années 1960. Paris, Louis Vuitton archives © Archives Louis Vuitton Malletier, Paris
Crossing of the Vrain Canyon by an expedition of the Royal Geographical Society, in the Rocky mountains, in Colorado, 1931 © Getty Images / Royal Geographical Society / colorization Sébastien de Oliveira
Anonymous, Colorado and the Streamliner city of Denver, Union Pacific, in the 1950's. Private collection © Bridgeman Images

 

Read more: Luigi Ghirri: A cartographer of the invisible

 

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