Inside Shakespeare and Company, Paris

ImageShakespeare and Company (bookstore)

I love old-fashioned bookstores and this is one of the most beautiful bookstores in the world.
From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Shakespeare and Company

Location Paris, France
Type Bookstore
Opened 1951
Owner Sylvia Beach Whitman

Shakespeare and Company is the name of two independent bookstores on Paris’s Left Bank. The first was opened by Sylvia Beach on 17 November 1919 at 8 rue Dupuytren, before moving to larger premises at 12 rue de l’Odéon in the 6th arrondissement in 1922.[1] During the 1920s, it was a gathering place for writers such as Ezra Pound, Ernest Hemingway, James Joyce and Ford Madox Ford.[1] It closed in 1941 during the German occupation of Paris and never re-opened.[2]

The second is situated at 37 rue de la Bûcherie, in the 5th arrondissement. Opened in 1951 by George Whitman, it was originally named “Le Mistral” but renamed to “Shakespeare and Company” in 1964 in tribute to Sylvia Beach’s bookstore.[3] Today, it serves both as a regular bookstore and as a reading library, specializing in English-language literature. The shop was featured in the Richard Linklater film Before Sunset and in the Woody Allen film Midnight in Paris.[4]

Sylvia Beach’s bookstore



Poet’s Corner

Sylvia Beach, an American expatriate from New Jersey established Shakespeare and Company in 1919 on 8 rue Dupuytren. The store functioned as a lending library as well as a bookstore.[5] Beach moved to a larger location at 12 rue de l’Odéon in 1921, where the store remained until 1941.[1] During this period, the store was the epicenter of Anglo-American literary culture and modernism in Paris. Writers and artists of the “Lost Generation,” such as Ernest Hemingway, Ezra Pound, F. Scott Fitzgerald, Gertrude Stein, George Antheil and Man Ray spent a great deal of time at Shakespeare and Company, and it was nicknamed “Stratford-on-Odéon” by James Joyce, who used it as his office.[6] Its books were considered high quality and reflected Beach’s own literary taste. Shakespeare and Company, as well as its literary denizens, was mentioned in Hemingway’s A Moveable Feast. Patrons could buy or borrow books like D. H. Lawrence’s controversial Lady Chatterley’s Lover, which had been banned in Britain and the United States.

Beach initially published Joyce’s book Ulysses in 1922, which was banned in the United States and in the United Kingdom. Subsequent editions of Ulysses were published under the Shakespeare and Company imprint in later years.[7]

The original Shakespeare and Company was closed in 14 June 1940, during the German occupation of France during World War II. [2] It has been suggested the store may have been ordered shut because Beach denied a German officer the last copy of Joyce’s Finnegans Wake.[8] When the war ended, Hemingway “personally liberated” the store but, despite this, it never re-opened.[9]

[edit] George Whitman’s bookstore

In 1951, another English-language bookstore was opened on Paris’s Left Bank by an American George Whitman, under the name of Le Mistral. Its premises, the site of a 16th-century monastery,[10] are at 37 rue de la Bûcherie, near Place Saint-Michel, just steps from the Seine, Notre Dame and the Île de la Cité.[10] Much like the original Shakespeare and Company, the store became a focal point for literary culture in bohemian Paris, and was frequented by many Beat Generation writers, such as Allen Ginsberg, Gregory Corso, and William S. Burroughs.[10]

In 1964, after Sylvia Beach’s death, Whitman changed his store’s name to Shakespeare and Company in tribute to the original venture.[3] He described the bookstore’s name as “a novel in three words”.[3] and calls the venture “a socialist utopia masquerading as a bookstore”.[11] Customers have included the likes of Henry Miller, Anaïs Nin, and Richard Wright. The bookstore includes sleeping facilities, with 13 beds, and Whitman claims as many as 40,000 people have slept in the shop over the years.[11]

Regular activities that occur in the bookshop are Sunday tea, poetry readings and writers’ meetings.[12] Whitman’s daughter, Sylvia Beach Whitman, now runs the shop.[12]

George Whitman died at the age of 98 on December 14, 2011.

[edit] Sylvia Beach Whitman

George Whitman’s daughter, Sylvia Beach Whitman, has now taken over the day-to-day running of the shop, and continues to run the store in the same manner as her father, allowing young writers to live and work in the shop.[12] She has also started a biennial literary festival, FestivalandCo, which has hosted such writers as Paul Auster, Siri Hustvedt, Jeanette Winterson, Jung Chang and Marjane Satrapi.[13][12] Sylvia Whitman has appeared on the Paris episodes of The Late, Late Show with Craig Ferguson, which aired the week of August 1, 2011.


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