Coming Down the Seine
5 1/4” x 8” • 224 pages • b&w illus.
ISBN 9781566564700 • paperback • $15.00 •
“Four hundred miles from source to mouth—just twice the length of the Thames. There was scarcely a yard of it that I hadn’t touched, from its first cress-bordered trickle to the broad highways where cyclopean buttresses of chalk hold back the hills.”
One of Europe’s most celebrated rivers, the Seine stretches from the fertile plains of Burgundy to the English Channel at Le Havre. Starting at its source near Dijon, writer and engraver Robert Gibbings follows the river’s 400-mile course as it develops from a tranquil stream into the mighty waterway that links Rouen to the sea. The journey takes different forms: on foot, in a tiny boat “hardly more than a coracle,” on a barge, and on a boat used for transporting books. Throughout this leisurely voyage during one summer, Gibbings records his impressions, visual and verbal, of places and people as well as explaining how the river has played a vital role in French history.
In part an evocation of the Seine’s changing landscapes and rural beauty, this is also an account of towns and cities—Troyes, Rouen, Paris—and their relationship with the river. Looking at writers and painters as well as historic figures who have left their mark on the Seine, Gibbings presents an affectionate picture of this great river and the people who live and work on its banks. Discussing the vineyards of Champagne, the paintings of Sisley and Utrillo, the rituals of Parisian café life, the author conveys an irresistible enthusiasm not just for boats and river life, but for all things French.
First published in 1953, Coming Down the Seine is illustrated with more than fifty of Gibbings’ delightful engravings.
Robert Gibbings (1889–1958) was born in Ireland and studied at the Slade School of Fine Art, discovering a talent for wood engraving. The author of eight books about rivers, he was well-known for his engravings as well as his travel writing.
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