Shakespeare and Company – A Bookshop Whose Reputation Far Exceeds its Size:
Shakespeare and Company is an English-language bookshop in the Latin Quarter which falls under the “legendary bookshop” category.
This independent bookshop is visited by literary luminaries. You’ll also know that there’s something special about Shakespeare and Company, when film-makers feature the bookshop in their movies … even if it’s ever so briefly as in Woody Allen’s “Midnight in Paris” .
How it all started
Shakespeare and Company was founded in 1951 by George Whitman, an American in Paris after World War II. As George did not want to immediately return to the States after the war, he enrolled at the Sorbonne to improve his French. During his studies at the Sorbonne, he accumulated a large amount of English language books and his room soon became a library and a bookshop. It was through the encouragement of a friend that he took the idea of a bookshop in Paris seriously. He leased a small apartment opposite the Notre Dame which he then converted into a bookshop.
The shop was originally called Le Mistral but he later changed it to Shakespeare and Company as a tribute to Sylvia Beach, the owner of the original Shakespeare and Company bookshop at 12 rue de l’Odéon. Sylvia Beach was a much respected publisher and bookshop owner. Her Shakespeare and Company was the focal point of Anglo-American literary culture in Paris and was frequented by legendary writers and artists like Ernest Hemingway, James Joyce, Gertrude Stein, F. Scot Fitzgerald, Man Ray and others.
George Whitman died at the ripe old age of 98 and his Shakespeare and Company is now run by his daughter, Sylvia Beach Whitman.
More than a Bookshop
With a name like Shakespeare and Company, the bookshop is sure to attract interest from fans of the Bard. However, this interesting antiquarian bookshop actually sells more than just Shakespeare books. Shakespeare and Company buys and sells all kinds of second-hand books. At the rare books corner, there are volumes that book collectors will love to get their hands on .. if they have the money. A First edition signed copy of Ernest Hemingway’s “The Old Man and the Sea” can be had for 2,500€ or a First edition “Dr. Zhivago” is only 225€.
Shakespeare and Company also hosts all kinds of workshops and literary events, including Sunday teas, writers’ meetings, poetry readings, etc. The bookstore also has 13 beds which over the years some 50,000 people have slept in. Since the day that George opened his bookstore, he has always invited established and budding writers and others to share his home.
Book lovers will enjoy a visit to Shakespeare and Company. Its shelves are stacked with classic and contemporary books and literary history. Since featuring in popular movies, Shakespeare and Company has also become somewhat of a Paris tourist attraction.
Shakespeare and Company is at 37 rue de la Bûcherie in the 5th arrondissement. If you’re visiting the Notre Dame, the bookshop is just across the river from the cathedral. Don’t forget to also take a look at the beautiful Wallace fountain in front of the shop.
Shakespeare and Company
37 rue de la Bûcherie
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