You don't have to question that we are in an ever moving love affair with Paris.
Amidst the history of this spectacular city there is a maze of unforgettable shops that go above and beyond the typical retail setting. One of which is the famous Shakespeare & Company, nestled just steps away from the Notre Dame. Writers, Artists, Musicians, and Fans alike flock from all over the world to visit this one-of-a-kind bookstore to soak up the inspiration and certain magic that undeniably lies inside it's doors.
The original Shakespeare & Company was opened in 1919 by Sylvia Beach, an American Expatriate. The store functioned as a lending library as well as a bookstore and was the epicenter of Anglo-American literary culture and Modernism in Paris. Writers and artists such as Ernest Hemingway, F. Scott Fitzgerald, Gertrude Stein, George Antheil and Man Ray spent a great deal of time at Shakespeare and Company. Its books were considered high quality and reflected Beach's own literary taste. Shakespeare and Company, as well as its literary denizens, was mentioned in Hemingway's A Moveable Feast.
Patrons could buy or borrow books that were otherwise banned in Britain and the United States. The original Shakespeare and Company was closed in 14 June 1940, during the German occupation of France during World War II. It has been suggested the store may have been ordered shut because Beach denied a German officer the last copy of Joyce's Finnegan's Wake. When the war ended, Hemingway "personally liberated" the store but, despite this, it never re-opened.
In 1951, another English-language bookstore was opened on Paris's Left Bank by an American George Whitman under the name of Le Mistral. Its premises, the site of a 16th-century monastery, near Place Saint-Michel just steps from the Seine and the Notre Dame. Much like the original Shakespeare and Company, the store became a focal point for literary culture in bohemian Paris, and was frequented by many writers, such as Allen Ginsberg, Gregory Corso and William S. Burroughs.
In 1964, after Sylvia Beach's death, Whitman changed his store's name to Shakespeare and Company in tribute to the original venture.
The bookstore includes sleeping facilities, with 13 beds, and Whitman claims as many as 40,000 people have slept in the shop over the years. Regular activities that occur in the bookshop are Sunday tea, poetry readings and writers' meetings. Whitman's daughter, Sylvia Beach Whitman, now runs the shop. George Whitman died at the age of 98 on December 14, 2011.
If you are ever in Paris be sure to schedule in a visit to Shakespeare & Company. Whether you are a literary maven or not you won't regret the trip. When purchasing a book be sure to ask the desk clerk to stamp the inside of the cover with their signature stamp. It is the best souvenir you could ever bring home. In the spirit of S&Co, we also affectionately stamp our collection of books here at The Paris Market. Just ask our lovely ladies to mark your book as you checkout.
Who knows, you might meet the ghost of Hemingway or even Shakespeare himself along the way.