Hearts Through History Romance Writers

Iced Glissoires and Balançoires in St. Petersburg

by | July 21, 2012 | 12 comments

On a recent trip to a used book store, I came upon a wonderful find in the architecture section. I visit the store periodically to hunt for research books, and because the various employees tend to classify things differently, there are several sections I check, including: history, fashion, furniture, architecture, travel, and art. The treasure I found was, St. Petersburg, A Portrait of a Great City by Vincent Giroud. The book showcases Yale University’s Beinecke Rare Book and Manuscript Library’s collection relating to St. Petersburg, including rare accounts of early visitors to the capital of the Russian empire.

An eight volume account of Russia called Rusland was anonymously published in 1804, and the beginning and end of each book has woodcut vignettes of various places and people. According to the appendix, they are the work of Amsterdam painter Harmanus Fock (1766-1822). Fock also designed two folding plates, engraved by Jacob Ernst Marcus (1774-1826) in 1804. The subject of the plates is public amusements in winter and summer.

This winter plate shows iced glissoires (slides) set atop the ice on the Neva River. Similar slides were installed in the imperial residences of Oranienbaum and Tsarskoe Selo. The buildings in the background are the Academy of Sciences and Peter the Great’s Kunstkammer (the first museum in Russia).

This summer plate shows a balancoire (ancestor to the Ferris wheel), which were traditionally built on St. Isaac Square at Easter and remained in place throughout the summer.

I was thrilled to discover these pictures and descriptions of everyday life during this time period. Locating any information about early 19th century Russia is difficult, and locating primary sources is even more difficult, but this book has provided me with many titles to research.

How about you? What sort of treasures have you discovered at a used book store?

Ally Broadfield writes romance set in Imperial Russia and Regency England. She’d love to see you at her website or on her Facebook page.


  1. Callie Hutton

    Hi Ally,

    Loved the pictures. I just love old book stores. One of the reasons I hope the cyber book stores don’t put the brick and mortars out of business. Hubby one time found a copy of a Winston Churchill book he’d been looking for for years. Every time he ran across a copy it was way over our budget. This book was $1.95! I also found a gold necklace on a jewelry counter in an old book store. It’s unique, and I love it, especially the $2 price. I even love the way old book stores smell. Goodness. Now I have to find one to visit today, lol.

    • Ally Broadfield

      Thanks for coming by, Callie. Old jewelry would be a great find. I hope you were able to find a store close by!

  2. Amber Belldene

    How cool.

    I love Russian History–I’ll check out your romances!

    Since my life doesn’t allow for a lot of books store browsing, I like this fun site of historical images: http://www.retronaut.co/

    • Ally Broadfield

      That’s a great link, Amber. I don’t have anything published yet, but I’ve got a couple of things on submission, so I hope to be soon. Thanks for stopping by.

  3. Ella Quinn

    I love the pictures. You do such a good job researching. One of the things I miss about the States is having bookstores. But it’s about the only thing I miss.

    • Ally Broadfield

      Thanks,Ella. I suspect the beach helps you forget you miss anything here.

  4. Angelyn

    old bookstores are so wonderful–it’s been awhile since I’ve been inside a physical one. The e-stores have been a great resource for me unless I’m looking for local interest topics. Then I try to get by the secondhand corner store. Thanks for a great post, Ally!

    • Ally Broadfield

      Thanks for coming by, Angelyn.

  5. ChristineWarner

    Love old bookstores…found one on our trip to Boston but couldn’t get anyone else to stop…bummed me out because the one that wasn’t far from our house closed up. I prefer them to the larger chain stores. Great pics too…they always add to your blogs and I enjoy them 🙂

    • Ally Broadfield

      I would be bummed out too if I didn’t get to check out an old book store. Thanks for stopping by, Christine.

  6. Neecy Kelly

    I can’t say we have an old bookstore in our suburbs. But we have a place called Paper Back Outlet and I found some oldies but goodies there.
    Enjoyed the post, Ally.
    Sorry so late,

    • Ally Broadfield

      I love to hunt through old paperbacks! How fun. Thanks for stopping by, Neecy.


  1. Iced Glissoires and Balançoires in St. Petersburg | Ally Broadfield - [...] https://www.heartsthroughhistory.com/iced-glissoires-and-balancoires-in-st-petersburg/ This entry was posted in Uncategorized. Bookmark the permalink. ← White Nights in St. Petersburg [...]



Share This