Shakespeare and Company – A Legendary Bookshop

Shakespeare Bookshop’s Reputation Far Exceeds the Size of its Shop:

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Front of Shakespeare and Company

Shakespeare and Company is an independent English-language bookshop in the Latin Quarter that falls under the “legendary bookshop” category.

When you have literary luminaries visiting Shakespeare and Company and when film-makers feature the bookshop in their movies, even if it’s ever so briefly as in Woody Allen’s “Midnight in Paris”, then you know that there’s something special about this bookshop.

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.

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Inside Shakespeare and Company

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.

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Shakespeare, the bard

More than a Bookshop

With a name like Shakespeare and Company, the bookshop is bound to attract interest from fans of the Bard, but 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.

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Tony, checking out the postcards

Book lovers will enjoy a visit to Shakespeare and Company with its shelves stacked with classic and contemporary books and literary history. Since featuring in popular movies, Shakespeare and Company has also become 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.

For more photos of the Shakespeare bookshop, see Here.


Shakespeare and Company
37 rue de la Bûcherie
Paris 75005

Map of Paris:

If you think of anything I left out of this post, please feel free to put that on the comment.

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