Sunday, May 17, 2015

A Paris Icon: Shakespeare and Company Bookstore

One of my favorite discoveries during a recent visit to Paris was stumbling across Shakespeare and Company bookstore.

Shakespeare and Company bookstore at 37 rue de la Bucherie in Paris.

I was with a tour group that beautiful morning and we had just visited the resplendent Luxembourg Gardens. We were taking a leisurely walk before heading across the Seine to Notre-Dame Cathedral.

A place to read, relax and soak in the literary atmosphere.

I was momentarily stunned when we turned the corner and this iconic bookstore was before me. It wasn't on the tour's list of things to see, but it certainly ranked high on my list as a place I wanted to experience.

Now this isn't the same Shakespeare and Company that was founded in 1919 by Sylvia Beach and attracted such literary lions as Ernest Hemingway, F. Scott Fitzgerald, Ezra Pound and James Joyce, among many others, but it carries on in the spirit of that great bookstore that closed in 1940 because of the German occupation.

This bookstore, founded in 1951 by American George Whitman, follows in the same tradition of the original. Whitman named his store Le Mistral, but changed it to Shakespeare and Company, in 1964, in honor of great bard's 400th birthday and as a tribute to Beach. 

Through the years Whitman brought in literary greats such as Allen Ginsberg, William Styron, James Baldwin, William Burroughs and Richard Wright. 

Whitman, who was also a poet, died in 2011 at the age of 98. The bookstore is now owned by his daughter, Sylvia, who is named after Sylvia Beach, and she continues to run the business in the same spirit and tradition of her father and her namesake. 

Yours truly in his tourist attire.
I wish I could have spent more time at the bookstore, perusing the titles on the shelves, studying the photographs on the walls, and talking to some of the patrons. 

Perhaps I can if I ever return to this enchanting city.

Until the next time....


  1. Wow that's great!Europe trip. This post particularly exhibit your literary interest.
    Hope you did enjoy your trip.
    Looking forward to your more posts from trip.

    1. My wife and I had a great time, Kiran. I'll be making more posts in the coming week or so about our stops in London, Paris and Roma.