Shakespeare & Company, Paris
I love book shops but.....Hannah spent an hour in here she kept disappearing with some books and reappearing with different books whilst I stood about getting in peoples way. there are thousands of books and many people in very narrow aisles.
A very popular bookshop
What to buy: BOOKS
What to pay: AVERAGE PRICES
This book store in the Latin Quarters is Paris oldest book store, facing Norte Dame cathedral. This place is a great place to find books in all types of subjects. Always packed with both local and tourist. Spend some time here and wonder the endless amount of shelves of great books. One of the last greatest book store left in the world not called barnes and noble !!!!! Highly recommend it !!!!
When I was living here, every time I tried to buy a book at S & Co., the legendary, previous owner, George Whitman, would try to convince me not to buy it, but instead, go upstairs, curl up, and read it in the store. It was great. He finally relented once and let me buy an Oscar Levant book called A Smattering of Genius. I’m guessing it had been on the shelf for some time and he didn’t think it was likely that it would ever be sold so he gave up. When you purchase a book from the store, they stamp it with there official store stamp that says “Kilometre Zero Paris”, a reference to the point in front of nearby Notre Dame by which all distances in Paris are measured.
What to buy: Books--if they let you
Whenever we are in Paris we like to go to this bookshop. It seems strange to go to an English bookshop in the French capital. However, it's not so much the fact that they sell books in English, but that they also have many used books, and I just like to browse . You never know what you will find.
It's an incredibly stuffed store, books are everywhere, in cases, on shelves, in piles on the floor. I dread to think what could happen if there were a fire!
There is a good children's book section, upstairs and as I'm always looking for some old David Henry Wilsons, I went up. To get a look at some of the books I had to move two of the piles on the floor,lean over and steady my weight with one hand on the wall, and even then I could barely get the books out of the shelf.This is not your usual bookstore! No David Henry Wilsons, but a lot of other interesting books.
It's located right opposite Notre Dame on the Seine, very difficult to miss.
What to pay: The lowest price I saw was 3 Euro for a used book, but there might be cheaper ones and there are certainly much more expensive ones.
Shakespeare & Co.
I visit this bookstore every year, but for the first time April 2003 I actually ventured past the front room. The rest of the building was totally cool, set up like some of the wonderful dreams I've had about musty, quiet, peaceful, old houses, filled with nooks & crannies, high ceilings, floor-to-ceiling bookshelves and as you go up you encounter these really steep, narrow, cramped stairs covered in an old Oriental rug. While there I did see the Sylvia Beach Library but couldn't figure out which room it was of the two adjoining rooms to which the sign referred (you'll be able to see a tour of the store on the website).
A fantastic resource that I perused & drooled over for 10 years before my first trip to Paris is Expatriate Paris: A Cultural & Literary Guide to Paris of the 1920s by Arlen Hansen.
I always wanted to stay here for free as a tumbleweed, just helping out cleaning for a few hours and then writing but alas I have yet to start that great American novel!
Photos: Feb 2006 & Nov 2007
What to buy: 4 great books to buy on the subject of the original Shakespeare & Co. (and which can be obtained from this bookstore with its infamous "Kilometre Zero" stamp):
Sylvia Beach & the Lost Generation by Noël Riley Fitch
Ulysses by James Joyce
A Moveable Feast by Hemingway
Shakespeare and Co. by Sylvia Beach
Another book I bought was George Orwell's Down & Out in Paris & London. It's cool to buy books here just to get that great stamp.
George Whitman, the owner of the shop, once published works of the Beats: Allen Ginsberg, William S. Burroughs, Gregory Corso when this shop was called Le Mistral. This past February I inquired to see if George every wrote anything of his own; he had, a small laminated trifold treatise on the history of this shop. George is now in his 90s and you'll be hard-pressed to find his presence in this shop. Instead, it is now run by his daughter, Sylvia, who was named after Sylvia Beach.
Photos: Feb 2006 & Nov 2007
What to pay: Very inexpensive books ~ 7-10€/book - but the Kilometre Zero stamp's for free!
The current Shakespeare and Company was opened by American George Whitman in 1951 using the same name as the famous original English language bookstore and lending library opened by Sylvia Beach. Sylvia Beach's permission was gained for the use of the name.
The store was originally Whitman’s apartment in Paris converted into a bookstore. It is located at 37 rue de la Bucherie and is open from noon until midnight every day. Finding it can be a bit difficult as the street it is located on starts and stops near a church and then continues around the corner for the street numbers above 30 (if memory serves correctly). When I was here in 2005 the shop was undergoing some improvements to its façade and was even harder to find!! The store was also used for the opening scene of the movie Before Sunset.
The bookstore is crammed full of books both old and new and has an interesting reading area upstairs with books that can only be read on site. Some of the stairs and steps to the top floor are very steep so can be tricky when coming back down - be careful!! The isles are tight and passages small so you can make friends quite easily!!
When you by a book the shop assistant will stamp the inside the book with a Shakespeare Bookshop stamp making the book a keepsake as much as an item to read.
The location of the shop opened by Sylvia Beach is located at 12 rue de l’Odéon though this hasn’t operated since 1944 and was the 2nd location of the store on the same street.
What to buy: Books, books & books........... some old & some new!
Shopping is never really high on my list when I'm traveling but I could not go to Paris without going to Shakespeare and Company! Today's bookstore is of course very different from the Shakespeare and Company store Sylvia Beach ran at 12 rue de l'Odeon, where the young Ernest Hemingway would borrow books and where James Joyce's "Ulysses" was published in 1922. The new Shakespeare and Company opened in 1951 and its first owner, George Whitman, did his very best to live up to the store's name and reputation by creating the right kind of atmosphere for book lovers from all around the world. Books signings are a common occurence in this store that is so full of books, they go from wall to wall to floor to ceiling!
What to buy: English books are quite expensive in France (compared with Canada and the US), but there's a used books section located just outside the store where you can get really good books at a fairly decent price. All the books bought at Shakespeare and Company get their own "Kilometer Zero Paris" stamp inside!
This bookstore has become sort of an institution among English speaker in Paris. I doubt that it has any connection with Shakespeare and Co. on the Upper East Side of Manhattan in NYC. It is a fun place to go to although frankly there are better English language bookstores in Paris. But it is sort of like going into your grandmother's attic and browsing through her old books, although they do stock the most current as well.
It also serves as a meeting place for some groups iin Paris such as the photography meetup.
Il faut feuilleter tous les livres et n'en lire qu'un ou deux.
You must leaf through many books and only read one or two.
~ Jules Renard ~
The original Shakespeare and Company was opened in 1921 by Sylvia Beach, daughter of a New England Presbyterian minister, and was at 12 rue de l'Odeon, Paris.
For twenty years it thrived, and it was from here that Europe first heard of the writings by new American talent, like Hemingway and Fitzgerald.
Throughout the 1920s, literati frequented Sylvia's shop: George Bernard Shaw, Ezra Pound, Gertrude Stein, Paul Valèry, André Gide,James Joyce...
The Shakespeare and Company we know today opened on the Left Bank in 1951.
Its owner was George Whitman, another east coast American bibliophile, and at first he called it 'Le Mistral'.
Then in 1964, having secured Sylvia Beach's agreement, George decided to resurrect her Shakespeare and Company name, in order to honour and continue the ethos and traditions of the former famous bookshop.
You may ask... Is it a bookshop or a library?
Both. The library is upstairs and you're welcome to sit and read there as long as you like. The shop is downstairs. Books can be loaned out on special occasions, but you have to see George Whitman about this.
Open 12 to 12 daily.
Every Monday, in the library upstairs at 8 pm.
You may also be wondering...
Did Shakespeare himself used to live here?
No. But, curiously enough, the building was constructed in the same year that he wrote 'The Tempest'.
This is a small intimate bookshop offering a large variety of books (primarily in English) from popular classics to obscure, enriching finds. There are many who might feel that it is a waste of time to go to a bookstore while on vacation, but I highly enjoy it wherever I go. This is a great way to unwind after a busy jaunt of all of the tourist sites, especially if you end at Notre Dame. Also, there are usually vendors along the street in front of the store with some great small mementos (and not only the cliche souvenirs)
If you have ever seen or will see the movie Before Sunset with Ethan Hawke and Julie Delpy, this is where the movie begins as Ethan's Character is speaking to a group about his book.
What to buy: Books!!
If you come from an English speaking country with bookstores, then this bookstore will pale in comparision in terms of variety. There isn't much of a selection but you come here to get a stamp in the book you'll buy. The children's section is upstairs and not accessible because you have to go up very steep stairs or should I say almost a ladder. There is a bed and a mirror upstairs in the children's section and you can leave notes on the mirror. It's interesting just to look around, but if you have allergies (dust, mites) or a sensitive nose to smell (it does smell back in there - did I mention the beds, dust, cats, etc?) then I don't suggest you spend too much time here.
If you're looking for something to read, or just want to browse in a bookshop, Shakespeare and Company is a great place to come. It's just across the river from Notre Dame Cathedral, and it's packed with second-hand books in English on all sorts of subjects.
The place is a bit of a Paris institution, and opens late - from noon until midnight daily. There's an interesting article about the place on the web here:
George Whitman, the founder has since turned the management over to his daughter, so there's a good chance that the place has quite a few years in it yet. If you like books, drop by!
This place is fantastic. It's not only a bookshop still in function. This english bookstore has great history, and it's almost like a small museum that takes you back in time in the middle of the 'big city rush'. Take your time to walk around in this charming old-style shop that offers a wide range of books, and maybe enter the upper floor(s) via the tiny steps...but beware that you don't step on the cat that runs around :)
What to buy: Ernest Hemmningway used to come borrow books here when he lived in Paris in the 1920'ies...in fact he wrote a chapter about this place in his book 'A Moveable Feast'.
Except for Hemmingway, Shakespeare and 'those guys' you can also find such as guidebooks, books on art and so on...
Absolutely woth a visit just to feel the atmosphere!
What to pay: You can find books here from 3 euros and up...I paid 13 euros for my Hemmingway-book.
This is a great old bookstore, that has used literature. the store has been there forever, and is a forite for literary types.
What to buy: Old classic books
What to pay: prices vary