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Bon Marché advertising card
The King of the Lilliputians offers a banquet to Gulliver

Au Bon Marché

A beautiful series of high-quality advertising cards published, circa 1900, by Le Bon Marché, a Parisian department store. Number three of a six-part series, the card above features a vibrant illustration inspired by Jonathan Swift's classic fantasy adventure, Gulliver's Travels, which takes readers on a journey to strange lands filled with curious people and fantastical places.

In 1726, Jonathan Swift unleashed a literary giant into the world: Gulliver's Travels. This seemingly amazing adventure story, following ship surgeon Lemuel Gulliver on his journeys to Lilliput (land of the tiny people) is much more than meets the eye. Gulliver's Travels is a scathing satire.

Through Gulliver's encounters, Swift mercilessly mocks the follies of 18th-century England, skewering politics, social class, and even humanity itself. The tiny Lilliputians, for instance, represent the absurdity of political squabbles.

Bon Marché advertising card
Number two in the series: Gulliver is presented to the King of the Lilliputians

Despite its sharp wit, Gulliver's Travels is also a timeless tale. The questions it raises about war, power, and human nature resonate even today. Whether you approach it as a thrilling adventure or a biting social commentary, Gulliver's Travels remains a masterfully crafted and thought-provoking work.

Le Bon Marché, meaning "the good market" in French, boasts a rich history as a pioneer in the world of department stores. While its roots trace back to a small fabric shop founded in 1838, the store we know today truly emerged in 1852. This is thanks to Aristide Boucicaut and his wife Marguerite, who completely transformed the business.

Bon Marché advertising card-reverse
Detail from the reverse of the cards shows Le Bon Marché department store designed
by architect Louis-Charles Boileau and built with engineer Gustave Eiffel

The Boucicauts envisioned a revolutionary shopping experience, a "new kind of store that would thrill all the senses." They not only offered a wide array of goods under one roof, but also implemented innovative ideas like fixed prices and seasonal sales, also prioritising customer service practices and embraced bold architectural design. This included a collaboration with the famed engineer Gustave Eiffel for a new building featuring skylights and a focus on natural light. Le Bon Marché became a trendsetter, forever changing the landscape of retail.



This regular feature shows special items from members’ own collections. Submissions by email should include a scan of the item.