8 February 2018 - The Original Shakespeare and Company Bookshop in Paris

The Original Shakespeare

 and Company Bookshop 

in Paris

G'day folks,

 Welcome to a bit of history. 

Sylvia Beach was the founder of the Shakespeare and Company in 1945 in the apartment upstairs where she hid her books from the Germans during the occupation. They had closed her shop in 1940, allegedly because she would not sell her first edition of James Joyce’s “Ulysses” to a Nazi officer. Notice the American flag floating from her window. When Paris was liberated by the Americans, Ernest Hemingway “personally liberated” the store, but it would never re-open.

Just in case you’re not up to speed, the original Shakespeare & Co opened in 1919 at 8 rue Dupuytren in Saint Germain before moving to a bigger location a few streets over to 12 rue de l’Odéon. This was the original bookstore that became a second home to the members of the “lost generation” including Hemingway, F. Scott Fitzgerald, Gertrude Stein, James Joyce and so on.

Today, the facade is unrecognisable. There’s a small memorial plaque above the clothes boutique that now stands its place. This is the bookshop where the New Jersey expatriate, Sylvia Beach lent a young and penniless Ernest Hemingway his reading material and sold copies of his first book in 1923, having encouraged its publication. This is the shop he wrote about in the pages of his moveable feast.

The Shakespeare & Co we know today facing the Notre Dame along the river Seine was opened in 1951 by American ex-serviceman George Whitman, under the name Le Mistral. In the absence of Sylvia’s store, after which he modelled his, Whitman’s bookstore also became a focal point for literary culture in bohemian Paris, this time for the beat generation; nurturing the likes of Allen Ginsburg, Henry Miller and Anaïs Nin. 

George befriended Sylvia in her retirement and while dining together one night in 1958, she publicly announced that she was handing the name to him for his bookshop. It wasn’t until Sylvia Beach died in 1964 that Whitman renamed the shop Shakespeare and Company in her memory. He described the name as “a novel in three words”.


Clancy's comment: Well, there ya go. Amazing how one tiny bookstore can attract some of the greatest authors.

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