One man and his magical menagerie

® Francis Hammond

Natural history lovers seeking a day of animal magic should visit Deyrolle in Paris. The owner talks taxidermy and tomatoes with Samantha David

Deyrolle in Paris is more than a shop, it’s literally and figuratively a French institution. The shop, in the wealthy, aristocratic St-Germain district of Paris, has been there since 1831 when it was opened by Jean-Baptiste Deyrolle – and strolling around it feels like visiting an extraordinary museum packed with curios, taxidermy, seashells, insects, fossils, prehistoric tools and collections of butterflies and minerals.

You walk through the door into a display of upmarket gardening gloves and hats – the Prince’s own line of equipment for rich gardeners – and the curving staircase beckons you to explore.

The first floor is light and airy, the walls pale green, the wooden floors and display cases beautifully varnished, but what is amazing is the cornucopia of relics and curios from the natural world. As you wander through the rooms, you come across a stuffed polar bear, a mass of cleverly-mounted birds, crabs, a peacock, a tiger, a brown bear standing on its back legs, a collection of butterflies, and of course, a rail of posh gardening waistcoats. There are mysterious drawers, trays of insects, a giant crab and a giraffe. Don’t miss the winged unicorn, the horned rabbit, the white peacock or the drawer full of ducklings looking just as if they’re ready to tumble out all over the floor.

It’s all very elegant with moulded ceilings and chandeliers, not a spot of dust anywhere. And, of course, although photography is forbidden, ...

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