Shakespeare and Company: Place and People

Shakespeare-and-Company-b-006The original bookstore called Shakespeare and Company originated in the United States, but is no longer there. Now, a bookstore with the exact same name can be found in Paris at 37 Ru de la Bûcherie. This street is one of the oldest Rive Gauche streets and is located between the Seine River which runs through the middle of Paris and Boulevard Saint Gemaine. The famous bookstore is located on The Left Bank which is the southern bank of the Seine River. In fact, it is right across the river from the Notre Dame Cathedral, one of Paris’ most well-known landmarks.

While Walking along the streets of Ru de la Bûcherie, you would find many restaurants, bars, and cafés. Shakespeare and Co. can be considered a place for social gathering like other bookstores, and is now surrounded by places where people eat and drink to be social. Eateries are not the only things that surround the bookstore. There are also many famous landmarks such as the Panthéon, Arnes de Lutece, the Luxenbourg Gardens, and much more. All of these landmarks are places to visit in the 5th Arrondissement, also known as the Latin Quarter.

The Latin Quarter got its name because historically, it is where most of the Latin speaking population of Paris lived and where its occupants strive for higher education and learning. One of the the things that the Latin Quarter is known for is the student life. Students consist of 13.8% of the population. There are many higher education opportunities at many different establishments other than the main university. The 5th Arrondissement of Paris actually has over 15 universities, colleges, and ambitious high schools that further educate their students. The Left Bank is known for having intellectuals. In fact, in an earlier era, The Left Bank was known as the “Paris of artists, writers and philosophers”.

Cresswell stated that one way to describe place is “the idea that identity of place…is constructed out of an introverted, inward-looking history based on delving into the past for internalized orgins” (67). When thinking about how this area of Paris was based on a place of learning and higher education, it makes sense why Shakespeare and Company belongs in this particular place. What better place to have a bookstore?

George Witman started Shakespeare and Company and after his death, his daughter, Sylvia Beach Witman, took over the store and is still running it today. On the wall of Shakespeare and Co. there is its motto: “Be not inhospitable to strangers lest they be angels in disguise”. Ever since George Witman started the store, people were welcome to wonder through the bookstore and even to stay the night in the spare beds if need be. It is a very welcome place for those in the community as well as visitors.

Shakespeare and Company has many regular activities such as Sunday tea, poetry readings, writers’ meetings, workshops, and visiting writers. In addition to these, Sylvia Beach Witman has started a biannual literary festival. It’s usually a four-day event and features about 30 authors from all over the world. During the festival, there are readings, panel discussions, and two big parties. It is an event that brings the whole community together. In Reluctant Capitalists, Miller makes a case for bookstores going from being community centers to entertainment centers. This festival that originally started with Shakespeare & Company as well as the other events that it hosts may be seen as a form of entertainment. Yet, it also brings the community together. It could be a small community that formed for the love of poetry at a poetry reading, or a larger reading community doing many different activities at the festival.




The Guardian, Shakespeare and Company Bookshop


Wandering France, Paris Arrondissements Map

Google Maps,Shakespeare and Company, Notre Dame Cathedral, Pathéon, Collége de France, Restaurants.


YouTube, An Afternoon Stroll Through the Latin Quarter.


Cresswell, Tim. Place: A Short Introduction. Malden, MA: Blackwell Pub, 2004.

EuropeUpClose, Paris 5th Arrondissement: The Latin Quarter.

Matt Barrett’s Travel Guides, Latin Quarter.

Miller, Laura J. Reluctant Capitalists: Bookselling and the Culture of Consumption. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2006.

Paris, Demographics: a Cosmopolitan City., Paris 5E Arrondissment. 

The Straits Times, Paris’ legendary Shakespeare and Co.

Wikipedia, Latin Quarter, Paris.,_Paris

Wikipedia, Ru de la Bûcherie.ûcherie

Wikipedia, Shakespeare and Company (Bookstore).

Wikitravel, Paris/ 5th Arrondissement.