What started as a personal collection of books by an ambitious and adventurous American evolved into one of the most famous bookstores in the world. George Whitman, originally from Salem, Massachusetts, fell in love with the city of Paris after his time traveling Europe and decided, with some necessary persuasion from his friend, to open his own little store in the heart of the city. Tucked charmingly across the Seine from Notre-Dame de Paris, the legendary Shakespeare and Company bookshop officially opened its doors in this location August 1951. But the bookstore’s roots date back much further, to 1919, when American Sylvia Beach opened her shop and lending library of the same name, quickly attracting such notable names as James Joyce and “Lost Generation” writers Ernest Hemingway, Gertrude Stein and F. Scott Fitzgerald. Beach’s store closed during the Occupation, but the name was picked up by Whitman following Beach’s death in 1964.
More than an ordinary bookshop, the venue offered itself as a haven to anyone willing to surround themselves with artistic lore and inspiration as well as a nice chat and a pancake with Mr. Whitman. Attracting artists of all kinds, Shakespeare and Company lured such icons as Allen Ginsberg, Gregory Corso, Henry Miller and Lawrence Durell through its doors and into its cozy quarters. The bookshop, which specializes in English-language books, offers writing classes, literary festivals, poetry readings, and author talks at its convenient locale, further promoting the power of the written, literary word.
A cultural institution in its own right, Shakespeare and Company continues its endless support of the arts, welcoming visitors and writers from every background and country into its pleasant atmosphere. The shop is now run by Whitman’s daughter, Sylvia Beach Whitman, but guests could visit Whitman himself, who was awarded the deserving Officier des Arts et Lettres by the French Minister of Culture for his lifelong contribution to the arts in 2006, at his weekly tea party. Reading books while drinking tea in Paris—what more could a book lover ask for! —Nicole Ellul
Shakespeare & Company
37 rue de la Bûcherie
+33 (0) 1 43 25 40 93