The Original Shakespeare
and Company Bookshop
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.
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.