The first bookstore of that name was opened by an American, Sylvia Beach, in the early twentieth century and became a popular gathering place for expat writers and poets in Paris, such as Ezra Pound, Ernest Hemingway, F. Scott Fitzgerald, Gertrude Stein, and James Joyce. The shop eventually closed due to the German occupation of Paris during World War II, but was re-opened in 1951 by another American, George Whitman, in tribute to Beach. George Whitman's daughter, Sylvia, currently manages the bookstore.
After the shop re-opened it once again became a main hangout for English-speaking writers and continues to be a focal point for literary folks from all walks of life, especially those who enjoy a touch of the eccentric.
The Raven and Edgar Allan Poe. Photo by Erin Connelly.
The interior of the shop, which was formerly a monastery, is composed of stacks of books (mostly second-hand), crooked and overflowing aisles, as well as random paintings, chandeliers and stuffed animals. The books spilling everywhere and miscellaneous objects (such as beds between the bookshelves), as well as its connection with writers of the Lost Generation and the Beat Poets, give the shop an air of eccentricity and charm. The current owner states that the shop has 'stubbornly kept its utopian ideals in a changing world.'
With its obvious visual appeal, famous literary connections, and location next door to Notre Dame, Shakespeare and Company is hardly a travel secret, but it is sure to be a fast favourite for any bookworm.