Le Costume Historique: fashion through the ages

Early 19th century French costume from Le Costume Historique.

We just had to share these books, available to view for free via The Internet Archive.

French Fashion - 18th Century hats - Le Costume Historique

They are a six volume set, published between 1876 and 1888 and written by Auguste Racinet (1825-1893), covering historical costumes, furniture, jewellery, weapons and carriages.  Everything including the kitchen sink really!

English coaches and carriages

They are written in French but don’t let that put you off if you don’t speak that language because the pictures within them, lots in colour, are truly glorious and speak for themselves.  We should really issue this blog with a warning because you are likely to spend quite a few hours flicking through them when you really should be doing other things.  We’ve included a few of our favourite images, concentrating, as this blog is about ‘all things Georgian’ on those years but these books cover much more than just that period.

Volume 1 (mainly text) gives a general introduction and a list of all the plates found across the full set of volumes together with an index, bibliography and glossary.

Volume 2 concentrates on L’Antiquité Classique, from primitive times until the fall of the Roman Empire and ‘Barbarian Europe’ before moving on to ‘the world outside Europe’ starting with Oceania, Africa, the America’s, Eskimo’s and Asia.

Volume 3 continues with Asia and on to India, Africa (again), Turkey and religious artefacts and dress.

18th century Turkish dress from Le Costume Historique

Volume 4 covers French and European military wear and medieval Europe through to the 16th Century.

Volume 5 begins with the end of the 16th Century and the dawn of the 17th, concentrating on Europe leading on to our favourite period, the 18th Century.

French 18th century fashion from Le Costume Historique

French 18th century fashion from Le Costume Historique

And so to Volume 6, the final one which continues 18th Century European fashions and takes us into the 19th Century, ending with a look at the Nordic countries together with Holland, Scotland, England, Germany and Switzerland.

Late 18th and early 19th century French fashions from Le Costume Historique

Scottish 18th century dress from Le Costume Historique

English dress - Le Costume Historique

For ease of translation the books can be viewed in plain text format which then can be copied and pasted into an online translation tool.

Have fun browsing these books!  We’d love to know your thoughts on them.

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