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songlines ADMIN September 13, 2015
NOTICE: Please only post images of or related to the bookstore in Paris called Shakespeare and Company. No offense meant, but photos of portraits or statues of Shakespeare the great poet (apart from those shot inside or around the bookstore), or of Shakespearean plays and theaters, or totally unrelated images will be deleted, and those who break this rule more than twice may also be removed from the members's list without notice.

Group Description

The first fan group (since March 2007) on Flickr celebrating the legendary English language bookstore and library that George Whitman opened in Paris in 1951.

An eclectic international photo album of its facade, surroundings, events, and details seen from different eyes and captured from various angles.

Post your photos; share your experiences of visiting, working, or spending the night at this utopia for biblophiles.

NOTICE: Please only post photos of the bookstore in Paris. No offense meant, but photos of portraits or statues of Shakespeare the great poet (apart from those related directly to the bookstore), or of Shakespearean plays and theaters, or totally unrelated images will be deleted, and those who break this rule more than twice may also be removed from the members's list without notice.

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Motto of the bookstore:

Be not inhospitable to strangers
Lest they be angels in disguise


- Share the spirit as a member of this group.

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If you're interested in the bookstore, read the memoir by Jeremy Mercer entitled Time Was Soft There - A Paris Sojourn at Shakespeare & Co. (UK title: Books, Baguettes and Bedbugs - The Left Bank World of Shakespeare & Co.).

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From the official website of Shakespeare and Company:

Shakespeare and Company is an English-language bookshop in the heart of Paris, on the banks of the Seine, opposite Notre-Dame. Since opening in 1951, it’s been a meeting place for anglophone writers and readers, becoming a Left Bank literary institution.

The bookshop was founded by American George Whitman at 37 rue de la Bûcherie, Kilometer Zero, the point at which all French roads begin. Constructed in the early 17th century, the building was originally a monastery, La Maison du Mustier. George liked to pretend he was the sole surviving monk, saying, “In the Middle Ages, each monastery had a frère lampier, a monk whose duty was to light the lamps at nightfall. I’m the frère lampier here now. It’s the modest role I play.”

When the store first opened, it was called Le Mistral. George changed it to the present name in April 1964—on the four-hundredth anniversary of William Shakespeare’s birth—in honor of a bookseller he admired, Sylvia Beach, who’d founded the original Shakespeare and Company in 1919. Her store at 12 rue de l’Odéon was a gathering place for the great expat writers of the time—Joyce, Hemingway, Stein, Fitzgerald, Eliot, Pound—as well as for leading French writers.

Through his bookstore, George Whitman endeavored to carry on the spirit of Beach’s shop, and it quickly became a center for expat literary life in Paris. Allen Ginsberg, William Burroughs, Anaïs Nin, Richard Wright, William Styron, Julio Cortázar, Henry Miller, William Saroyan, Lawrence Durrell, James Jones, and James Baldwin were among early visitors to the shop.

When George was in his early twenties, during the Great Depression, he set out on a “hobo adventure,” as he called it, with only $40 in his pocket. He walked, hitchhiked, and rode the rails from one end of the U.S. to the other, through Mexico, and on to Central America. Acts of generosity experienced on these travels—like the time he fell seriously ill in an isolated part of the Yucatan and was found and nursed back to health by a tribe of Mayans—had a profound effect on him. It inspired his philosophy: “Be not inhospitable to strangers lest they be angels in disguise.”

From the first day the store opened, writers, artists, and intellectuals were invited to sleep among the shop’s shelves and piles of books, on small beds that doubled as benches during the day. Since then, an estimated 30,000 young and young-at-heart writers and artists have stayed in the bookshop, including then unknowns such as Alan Sillitoe, Robert Stone, Kate Grenville, Sebastian Barry, Ethan Hawke, Jeet Thayil, Darren Aronfsky, Stephen Rea, David Rakoff, and Linda Grant. These guests are called Tumbleweeds after the rolling thistles that “drift in and out with the winds of chance,” as George described. A sense of community and commune was very important to him—he referred to his shop as a “socialist utopia masquerading as a bookstore.”

Three things are asked of each Tumbleweed: read a book a day, help at the shop for a few hours a day, and produce a one-page autobiography. Thousands and thousands of these autobiographies have been collected and now form an impressive archive, capturing generations of writers, travelers, and dreamers who have left behind pieces of their stories.

In 2002, at the age of twenty-one, Sylvia Whitman, George’s only child, returned to Shakespeare and Company to spend time with her father, then eighty-eight years old, in his kingdom of books. In 2006, George officially put Sylvia in charge. On the shutters outside the store, he wrote: “Each monastery had a frère lampier whose duty was to light the lamps at nightfall. I have been doing this for fifty years. Now it is my daughter’s turn.”

Sylvia introduced several new literary endeavors. In June 2003, Shakespeare and Company hosted its first literary festival, followed by three others. Participants over the years have included Paul Auster, Will Self, Marjane Satrapi, Jung Chang, Philip Pullman, Hanif Kureishi, Siri Hustvedt, Martin Amis, and Alistair Horne, among many others.

In 2011, with the de Groot Foundation, Shakespeare and Company launched the Paris Literary Prize, a novella contest open to unpublished writers from around the world. In recent years, the bookstore’s had cameo appearances in Richard Linklater’s Before Sunset and Woody Allen’s Midnight in Paris. Shakespeare and Company also continues to host at least one free literary event a week, and has been delighted to welcome young and emerging writers along with today’s leading authors, such as Zadie Smith, Lydia Davis, John Berger, Jennifer Egan, Carol Ann Duffy, David Simon, Edward St. Aubyn, and Jeanette Winterson.

The shop’s latest projects include a Shakespeare and Company publishing arm and an ongoing search for a farm and writers’ retreat in the countryside around Paris.

Although George Whitman passed away on December 14, 2011—two days after his 98th birthday—his novel, this bookshop, is still being written, both by Sylvia and by the thousands of people who continue to read, write, and sleep at Shakespeare and Company.

Thank you all for your support.

Shakespeare and Company
37 rue de la Bucherie 75005 Paris
shakespeareandcompany.com

Group Rules

NOTICE: Please only post images of or related to the bookstore in Paris called Shakespeare and Company. No offense meant, but photos of portraits or statues of Shakespeare the great poet (apart from those shot inside or around the bookstore), or of Shakespearean plays and theaters, or totally unrelated images will be deleted, and those who break this rule more than twice may also be removed from the members's list without notice.
Thank you for your understanding and for your cooperation.

Additional Info

  • Accepted content types: Photos, Videos, Images, Art, Screenshots
  • Accepted safety levels: Safe
Groups Beta