Your Whimsical Bookshop

In Paris, opposite Notre Dame, there is a bookshop that really stands out for its history and the approach to selling books. Over the past 50 years (it originally opened in 1919), Shakespeare & Company has provided both inspiration and accommodation for more than 30,000 writers. In exchange for a night's rest on one of the beds crammed between the towering shelves, all the owner asks for is that you make your bed in the morning, help out in the shop, and read a book a day.

Image by Arek

Back in 1922 the shop was the first one and also the only one at the time to publish Joyce's Ulysses. Now the shop has two parts with separate entrances - one is selling rare first editions and the second one has a mixture of books on all possible subjects to offer - both old and modern. This shop is really a charming and magical place - you would find yourself in another world when you enter..

When I found this shop in my guide book - i put it on my 'must see in Paris' list and I didn't regret it! It is definitely worth to visit Shakespeare & Co's website, which is quite brief and to the point, but offers a lot of history, many interesting events and more surprises..

Ah, each book you buy there comes with an official stamp (and there are always copies of Ulysses on sale ;))

Images by Olga


Floss said...

What an amazing place! It's going on my list of Paris Landmarks if we ever get that far (we tend to explore the south of France when we're on holiday - it is such a big country compared to the UK, and we have a limited budget).

Thanks for your comments on my blog - we do indeed have a bit of a storage problem because everyone in the family has hobbies and collections! We have an enormous number of shelves and bookshelves, and I just try to find attractive storage sollutions - as you can see, I made my fabric collection take up about one third of the space it used to, so that has helped!

Viagens pelo Mundo said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Viagens pelo Mundo said...

Hi Olga,
I was born among books. My grand mother was a teacher and my father was an University, so books always took an important role on my life.We still have a huge collection from the early 30's and 40's that my grand mother collected. Some shelfs at my grand-mother's house were similar to those on the picture and when I was little I spent hours around those old books.I've been in Paris many times but I didn't know this bookshop. I'll market not to miss it the next time I'll go there. Thanks for the tip. Take care TI

Olga said...

Hi Floss, definitely worth going, maybe you would be tempted to buy one of those first editions of books which already became classic! I definitely was, but unfortunately they are not easy to afford!

TI, you had an amazing childhood! I think it is easy to fascinate little children with books (I could spend hours going through old books on my grandpa's attic when I was a kid..) and then this love will be forever, one just needs to start interesting kids with books very early! Have you ever thought whether a blog can be some sort of a substitute for a book?..

Viagens pelo Mundo said...

Definitely, our stressed ways of living nowadays, tend to decrease the social coexistence among friends. I believe that this precise way of communication – to write a “blog” is, somehow, a search for a substitute, to replace the vacuum and the isolation that we all feel that is slowly becoming installed in our lives. We are all the time too much worried with our successful careers, our jobs, our families and we tend to neglect an important part of our lives which is those social bounds we all need to establish and to maintain with our friends. We live too much focused on ourselves and maybe this a new method to be within ourselves, but, at the same time with others. I far as for myself, it has been a wonderful experience. As you said on my blog, it’s so nice to write and have the feed back of someone who reads us. Bounds are created from that experience. Isn’t exactly what is happening with us? And it’s really nice. A big hug, TI

Fernando said...

Waaaaaaaaaaaau... This impressive library Paris .... to miss a few days. greetings

Olga said...

Hi TI, what you say about blogging is so very true... we do tend to find a way to distract ourselves from less pleasant and more stressful moments of our everyday life...I think with time the tempo of life has changed so much and work became so much more demanding it is hard at times to find time and the energy for social life... Blogging definitely helps so much to find people who think alike or who have similar interests and share - thanks so much for your warm words of encouragement :) Un abrazo!

Olga said...

Fernando, thanks for stepping by :)

Diatton said...

Oh, i liked the content of your post. I like too much the old book shops, you know! In my past years, i used very often to buy very old books with greek poems...

Nice evening to you my net friend...

Olga said...

I think I just have to add this as a comment! Someone from the shop itself got back to me and here is the additional information I received - very interesting:

"Hi Olga,

We're happy to hear that you had a good experience at Shakespeare and Company! I checked out your blog, very nice, thanks for including us. Just wanted to mention though that contrary to popular belief, this shop is NOT the original that was opened in 1919 by Slyvia Beach and published Ulysses. Rather, it was opened in 1951 by another American, George Whitman, who actually still owns the shop even though he is now 95! His daughter Sylvia (yes, named respectfully after Sylvia Beach) now runs the bookshop.

Ms. Beach was friends with George in the 50s and really helped him get his bookstore started. It was originally named Mistral. Eventually, however, Beach saw that Whitman carried on the same spirit of fostering young writers that she had believed in, and just before her death in 1962 asked George to change the name of his shop to Shakespeare and Company. She also donated most of the books that were in the original shop to George, and they are now part of our upstairs reference library - that's why they're not for sale. George considers them very precious.

Although this isn't the shop that published Ulysses, it has a long-standing tradition of having writers come through. The most famous example is probably that William Burroughs wrote part of "Naked Lunch" upstairs in the library, among Sylvia Beach's books.

Hope that you can drop in again next time you're in Paris,


s and co"

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