13.1.10

Shakespeare and Company

In a previous post I wrote about what was the first “Shakespeare & Co.” shop in Paris, close to the Odeon theatre, owned by Sylvia Beach who published James Joyce and where Ernest Hemingway, F. Scott Fitzgerald and others were regular visitors. That shop closed during WW II after Sylvia Beach had refused to sell a Joyce book to a German officer.
The present one, well-known to many of us, but perhaps more especially to all English speaking visitors (you may recognise an American lady blogger on one or two of the pictures below), is situated close to Notre Dame, just after crossing one of the bridges to the left bank. This shop opened in 1951 by an American, George Whitman. It first got the name “Le Mistral”, but when Sylvia Beach died in 1962, the bookshop took over the name of “Shakespeare & Co.”

This bookshop and library is an institution, full, really full, of new and old books.

Maybe the best way to learn about the philosophy of how the shop has been run is to read what George Whitman has written, January 1, 2004, on the back of some window-shutters:
SOME PEOPLE CALL ME THE DON QUIXOTE OF THE LATIN QUARTER BEACAUSE MY HEAD IS SO FAR UP IN THE CLOUDS THAT I CAN IMAGINE ALL OF US ARE ANGELS IN PARADISE. AND INSTEAD OF BEING A BONAFIDE BOOKSELLER I AM MORE LIKE A FRUSTRATED NOVELIST STORE, HAS ROOMS LIKE CHAPTERS IN A NOVEL AND THE FACT IS TOLSTOI AND DOSTOYEVSKI ARE MORE REAL TO ME THAN MY NEXT DOOR NEIGHBORS AND EVEN STRANGER IS THE FACT THAT EVEN BEFORE I WAS BORN DOSTOYEVSKI WROTE THE STORY OF MY LIFE IN A BOOK CALLED “THE IDIOT” AND EVER SINCE READING IT I HAVE BEEN SEARCHING FOR THE HEROINE, A GIRL CALLED NASTASIA FILIPOVNA. ONE HUNDRED YEARS AGO MY BOOKSTORE WAS WINESHOP HIDDEN FROM THE SEINE BY AN ANNEX OF THE HOTEL DIEU HOSPITAL WHICH HAS SINCE BEEN DEMOLISHED REPLACED BY A GARDEN. AND FURTHER BACK IN THE YEAR 1600 OUR WHOLE BUILDING WAS A MONESTRY CALLED LA MAISON DU MUSTIER. IN MEDIEVAL TIMES EACH MONESTRY HAD A FREE LAMPIER WHOSE DUTY WAS TO LIGHT THE LAMPS AT NIGHTFALL. I HAVE BEEN DOING THIS FOR FIFTY YEARS. NOW IT IS MY DAUGHTER’S TURN.
Henry Miller, Allan Ginsberg, William Burroughs... were frequent guests. You must have a look at the second floor. There are several beds and against a few hours work in the shop you can sleep over here.
George Whitman is now some 96 (or 98?) years old and since 2004 his quite young daughter, Sylvia Beach Whitman, has taken over the business, running it in a similar way her dad did, but also introducing a book festival, wishing to create a small theatre in the cellar....

53 comments:

from cali said...

Seeing all these books gives me goose pimples! Can't wait to revisit it one day.

krystyna said...

Great and interesting informations!
Especially Whitman's writting on the window!

Thank you Peter!

Catherine said...

what beautiful photos of bookshops - so sumptuous and something I dearly miss here..!!

Claudia said...

I love hanging around this bookshop. It reminds me of my grandmother's attic which was also crammed with old books in between the ancient wood beams. Your post gives a great feel of the place!

Olivier said...

oh une fontaine Wallace, j'adore.
Impressionnante cette librairie, et merci pour la visite. Que des livres en anglais ?

claude said...

Une librairie/dortoir, quelle trouvaille !
Cette boutique est un paradis pour les amateurs de littérature anglaise, américaine, ou autre (ce que je ne suis pas, même pas en français). Le nom de cette librairie est intéressant et c'est bien qu'il soit revenu après "Le Mistral".
Merci pour la visite.

hpy said...

Rien à voir avec Walt, je suppose?

Anne in Oxfordshire said...

I love this shop. Cannot wait to go again. Have a few photos of me outside there.

Mr London Street said...

It's truly one of my favourite places in Paris, and lovely pictures too.

Adam said...

How funny that you made this post. I spoke to Badaude last week who did the artwork on the walls featured in one of your photos, and I'll publish an article about her next week. I'll link back to yours for more in-depth information about the bookshop!

Delphinium said...

ah dame hpy m'a prise de court avec sa question que je voulais te poser en lisant ton post. Il y a deux genres de magasins où j'aime aller, les librairies et les magasins qui vendent des CD... je déteste les magasins d'habits, je déteste faire les magasins en gros, ce qui surprend toujours la gente masculine lorsque je leur dis cela. Par contre, je peux passer des heures dans une librairie, à toucher et sentir les livres, à faire des découvertes, à regarder aussi les autres qui traînent et cherchent dans les rayons.
Merci peter pour cette découverte. Je t'embrasse

Jilly said...

Oh I love this post, Peter and thanks for the history and for printing what was written on the shutters. Fascinating. I love this place although unsurprisingly it's always so crowded. Great shots that really shows us the fab atmosphere here.

Mary said...

Bonjour Peter...we had such fun that day! Who IS that divine woman in the black coat? George Whitman is quite a bon vivant - witness this video: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2hLk11K9OPI

Bagman and Butler said...

Now THAT is what a bookstore should look like! This is one place that will never carry Kindles.

Cezar and Léia said...

This is a place not only to pass by...This is a place to spend time calmly...Respirer la culture!
Hugs
Léia

designslinger.com said...

We watched a documentary on George and Shakespeare & Co. a couple of years ago called, "Portrait of a Bookstore as an Old Man."
We were fascinated.
So much so, that we had to go visit the shop when we were in Paris last April.
Can't believe George is still alive, and happy that his daughter is carrying on the tradition.

Jim

V Rakesh said...

Wow! This is cool! Out here, I rarely miss a book store and its 'wares'

This looks very inviting!

BLOGitse said...

What a treasure!
Beautiful posting!
I'd like to have a cup of with you - I'd sit left, I could see all the people coming and going.
How I miss that kind of places.
If you compare a bookshop in a mall and this one - which one is nicer?
LOL! Can't wait your answer... :)

Philadelphie said...

Very nice post, and <3 the quote. ..its good to see the spirit of Sylvia Beach is still alive and thriving

Karin (an alien parisienne) said...

I've gotten a bit behind in reading here! Catching up today. :)

This is a great bookstore. I worked in a large, independent bookstore in Denver for three years. I loved it. This bookstore reminds me a lot of that place, which was one of my favorite jobs so far in my life. It has such a great history, too!

I know some feel it is too kitsch or touristy, but to me it represents a kind of beatnik, freethinking way of life that I appreciate.

Thanks for posting again on this wonderful store!

BobAlescio said...

This was the last place I visited when in Paris this past fall, but somehow I missed the Wallace fountain. Isn't it wonderful that George named his daughter after the original Ms. Beach? She was certainly an influential person in the literary world, as well as a free and generous spirit.

ParisBreakfasts said...

Eeep I keep meaning to go here...
Maybe I don't have to now that you have covered it so well! :O

Cergie said...

Ce quartier est le quartier des libraires bien entendu et Pat y a souvent à faire... pour des publications, disons, contemporaines...
Il me faudrait relire "adieu vive clarté" de J Semprun,, il me semble que c'est dans ce livre qu'il raconte avoir volé adolescent scolarisé à Henri IV un guide Baedeker de Paris en allemand chez un bouquiniste de ce quartier de l'Odéon
Comme quoi c'est un chouette coin où chacun peut trouver son bonheur...

Starman said...

I took a friend there once. She was bored. Can you imagine?

Cheryl said...

I love that place. On my last trip to Paris I went there and bought Bridget Jones: Edge of Reason, one of the funniest, and one of my favorite books in the world.

JM said...

There was a very similar little green fountain at Rossio Square in Lisbon but it's gone after they remade the pavement... I wonder where it's gone!

Virginia said...

I"m sorry I didn't find the stairs to the upstairs room! Maybe I'll go back and have a look.
V

ALAIN said...

Les lits dans la librairie, c'est pour lire les bouquins soporifiques ?

Mo said...

I didn't know about this place. Must visit next time

Vagabonde said...

I was at this bookshop last November as I like to visit there every time I go to the Boul Mich. When I went to school in that area I used to spend many evening a la Huchette, close by. I had not been on the second floor though. I like your pictures.

Maya said...

What a fun looking place! I'll have to add it to my list for the next visit!

Catherine said...

Shakespeare & Co, un post mené d'une main de maître aussi bien sur le clavier, que sur le déclencheur...Tu veux que je te dise ? Aucun détail ne t'échappe.
Je connaissais la boutique et j'en ignorais son histoire, moi, la pure parigote du 18ème.
Une question, tout de même...qu'est ce que c'est que ce tableau aux post-it ? Ca m'intrique, maintenant.....Tu me diras.

Peter said...

From Cali:
Yes, it's certainly worth a new visit! :-)

Krystyna:
Yes, I copied it; I think it was the best way to describe how the place works! :-)

Catherine:
You can't have everything! You seem to have a lot of other nice things! :-)

Peter said...

Claudia:
Pleased to understand that you recognise the feeling! :-)

Olivier:
Oui, je pense que (presque) tout est en anglais. :-)

Claude:
Tu ne connaissais pas? :-)

Peter said...

hpy:
Je ne pense pas qu'ils sont de la même famille! :-)

Anne:
So, it's for when your next Paris visit? :-)

Mr London...:
Not surprised that you like this one! :-)

Peter said...

Adam:
Nice that we can cooperate in this way! :-)

Delphinium:
Ton commentaire ne me surprend pas! Je t'embrasse également! :-)

Jilly:
It's defintely nice, but of course also a bit of a tourist attraction! :-)

Peter said...

Mary:
Nice to see you comment here! Yes, "un bon vivant"! :-)

Bagman & Butler:
Yes, a shop for REAL books! :-)

Léia:
Exactly! Soon? :-)

Peter said...

Designslinger:
Yes, he's obviously still living although you don't see him in the shop any more. His date of birth is a bit uncertain, but he should be at least 96! :-)

V Rakesh:
Yes, you should visit it! :-)

BLOGitse:
I will give you my answer when we share a cup ... or a glass! :-)

Peter said...

Karin:
"Your" bookstore also looks like a real one!

The place is of course a bit "touristy", but you don't really feel it! They don't seem to be there to make money on tourists! :-)

Bob Alescio:
Yes, Sylvia Beach was certainly a personality! :-)

Peter said...

ParisBreakfasts:
Yes, you must! :-)

Cergie:
Ce n'était pas dans "L'écriture ou la vie"?

Starman:
Surprising, indeed! :-)

Peter said...

Cheryl:
You don't take yourself for Bridget Jones? (Only saw Bridget on cinema.) :-)

JM:
The Wallace fountains are all over Paris. I made a post about them a long time ago! :-)

Virginia:
I hope you find the time! At least you were there, the photos witness! :-)

Peter said...

Alain:
:-)

Mo:
Yes, you should! :-)

Vagabonde:
You should definitely go upstairs, even if you don't stay overnight! :-)

Peter said...

Maya:
When can we expect you next time. !-)

Catherine:
J'avou que je n'ai pas lu les post-its! Donc, je dois y retourner afin de pouvoir donne une réponse claire! Ou on ira ensemble? :-)

Trotter said...

Interesting; knew the history but not that Mr. Whitman was still alive at 98...
A wonderful place, ever!

Peter said...

Trotter:
His date of birth seems a bit unclear, but he should be at least 96! :-)

Nathalie said...

Peter, quel billet extraordinaire ! Moi qui ne suis pas parisienne je ne connaissais pas cette librairie mais déjà la note écrite sur le volet à l'entrée donne une idée du personnage, et le fait qu'on puisse y dormir en échange de quelques heures de travail aussi... un petit bijou ! Comment as-tu eu toutes ces infos ? Tu as parlé aux gens sur place ou seulement par recherche documentaire ?

arabesque said...

as much as i;m consumed by work most of the time, i love reading novels and bookstores are heaven to me. ^0^
and yes, discovery travel featured this sometime ago, i was amazed at how plenty of books this store could keep that it even has sleeping amenities for travelers on the go.. ^0^
oh, now i really wish we have that kind of history here. ^-^

Peter said...

Nathalie:
Je savais ... en grande partie, mais Google m'a aussi aide! :-)

Arabesque:
You have other wonderful things to offer! :-)

Kate said...

A wonderful treat to see this once again. A booklovers and English literature teacher's favorite spot in Paris. I loved it when I visited and I love it now thru your photos.

Peter said...

Kate:
... and you will love it next time! :-)

Jeanie said...

Oh, dear! I've been away from the computer for more than a week and look at all I've missed! Palais Royale (a deux!) and catacombs -- and this! Well, yes, this is where I chose to put my comment -- splendid! Thank you for taking me back to a spot I so enjoyed! (And all the others!)

Peter said...

Jeanie:
Your comments are welcome anywhere! :-)

PEDROHUELVA said...

interesantisima información, de u lugar que de casualidad, visite, en mi primer viaje a Paris. Ciudad de la que me enamore, perdidamente.

gracias por tanta y tan buena información .