Bas Bleu: For the Eclectic Reader

by Rachel Baker on November 29, 2007

I’m tellin’ a family “secret”…..My mother gets a million and twelve catalogs during the holidays. We don’t know why (and I’m not sure she knows anymore), but she does. Its not really a family secret…the mailman and the recycling people know too! Of these one million and twelve, there is just one that I get really excited about. This one actually comes five times a year, and its by far my favorite one to sit down with a cup of hot chocolate (I don’t know why) and spend several hours leafing through it.

The Bas Bleu, Inc catalog is chock full of obscure reading recommendations. The books are eclectic, don’t appear on bestseller lists and will not be found in supermarkets and airports. Bas Bleu is the self-proclaimed champion of the odd little book.

I always wondered where the name “Bas Bleu” came from. Once I took the time to find out, I thought it was interesting enough to share. Bas Blue is french for blue stockings – who’da thunkit! And more interesting than that, and here’s the whole relevance to this site… it also means “literary woman.” But how do the two go together, you ask (or maybe you didn’t but I’m gonna tell you anyway).

The Bas Bleu website has a longer explanation and explanation of the phrase. I’ve decided to add a few excerpts… because I want to inspire you to visit the site.

“In the 1700s, wearing warm-and-woolly dark blue worsted stockings — rather than the black silk stockings of formal, citified fashion — was the equivalent of wearing jeans today. It was the common denominator of casual dress. But how did the term bluestocking come to mean – a literary woman?”

“The English term “bluestocking” meaning a literary woman evolved in the mid-to-late 1700s. Women of society were beginning to express their boredom with being sent off to do their embroidery, rather than being invited to engage in conversation with the men. “

“In about 1750, Mrs. Elizabeth Montagu (later called “the Queen of the Blues”) and her friends founded the first official bluestocking society in England. They invited learned men to gather informally with them to talk about books, literature, art and architecture, as well as places and events that interested them. The story goes that this literary salon “enjoyed society in undress” — that is, in their more practical country clothing, most notably their blue worsted stockings. Hence, the term “bluestocking.” Perhaps to show off their knowledge of French, the members of the club often referred to themselves as “Bas Bleu.”

How can you not fall in love with a company who’s very name has a cool history! And HELLO… ! They have an online warehouse sale!

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