Today’s blog post comes to you direct from Associate Librarian Nicolae Harsanyi. Dr. Harsanyi created a library exhibit dealing with the marketing of wine and champagne in time for the South Beach Wine and Food Festival, February 23-26. His exhibition of rare library advertising materials remains on display through April 24, 2012. Here is his report:

When in the fourth stanza of his poem “Sweet things” Lord Byron stated that “Sweet is old wine in bottles, ale in barrels,” the pre-eminent English romantic poet perhaps unwittingly referred to a method of aging wine that was an invention of his time. Opening in 1822, the first stores of wine merchant Nicolas brought success to the company through their sale of bottled wine, also delivered to the clients’ home by cart. (Earlier, customers had to bring their jugs to the merchant to be filled from casks.) This also opened the way to age wine in bottles, rather than in barrels.

After World War I, Nicolas embarked on an intense advertising campaign involving movies as well as billboards.  During the inter-war period the company commissioned noted artists to design and illustrate their advertising materials. In 1921, a drawing by Jules Isnard Dransy (1883-1945) launched the character of Nectar, the delivery man. Brandishing 32 bottles in his hands, with the letter N (suggestive of Napoleon Bonaparte’ monogram) embroidered on his cap, his image became the longtime symbol of Nicolas. Nectar also had a good helper in the person of his son, Glou-glou. The name of Nectar conjured memories of the favorite drink of the gods in ancient Greek and Roman mythologies, while Glou-glou is the French onomatopoeia imitating the sound of gurgling [glug-glug].

By 1932, the Nicolas firm had expanded to 233 branches in and around Paris.


With the advent of the 20th century, delivery carts were replaced by tricycles and trucks.

Designs by other artists, such as Paul Iribe, Adolphe Mouron Cassandre, Georges Edouard Darcy, adorned the company’s catalogs, advertisements. Here’s an example of Darcy’s illustration in a catalog of 1935:

The artist Adolphe Mauron Cassandre (1901-1968) reinterprets the hallmark image of Nectar in art deco style: the symmetry of the image, reinforced by the raised perpendicular lines in the metallic background lend the familiar delivery man machine-like qualities.

Paul Iribe (1883-1935) illustrated some end of the year de luxe catalogs published in 1930, 1931 and 1932.

The color image of country people drinking wine contrasts with the previous one, in black & white, which suggests the toxicity of cocktails. Nicolas also became famous by its marketing of regional French wines. Iribe’s illustration taken from the 1930 catalog extolls the virtue of wine aged in the bottle by its reference to the fairy tale of “Sleeping Beauty.”

These images are part of a more extensive display which shows how new printing techniques and marketing strategies were used to promote vineyards and their yields beginning at the end of the nineteenth century. This display can be viewed in the foyer of the Wolfsonian library in our museum building on the corner of 10th and Washington in South Beach, Florida, or viewed online from anywhere around the globe on the virtual display created by Digital Library Specialist, David Almeida, at http://librarydisplays.wolfsonian.org/Wine/Wine.htm

~ by "The Chief" on April 5, 2012.


  1. These images are part of a more extensive display which shows how new printing techniques and marketing strategies were used to promote vineyards and their yields beginning at the end of the nineteenth century.

  2. I love the online library exhibits you make!

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