“Be not inhospitable to strangers / lest they be angels in disguise”

The worldwide patrons of the iconic Paris bookstore Shakespeare and Company mark and mourn the passing of the 98 year old founder and proprietor, George Whitman.    Trained as a journalist, the widely travelled adventurer served as a medical warrant officer in World War II.  Whitman moved to Paris on the GI Bill in 1948, attending the Sorbonne, and opened the bookstore in Paris with the seeding of his own personal library in 1951.

Originally called Le Mistral,  Whitman adopted the name of the legendary bookstore and haven for writers run by Sylvia Beach.  The original Shakespeare & Co. was famous for entertaining an entire pantheon of iconic writers in the twenties and thirties, and Beach published the first edition of Ulysses for James Joyce.  The bookstore resided on the Left Bank until its closure during the second world war.

George Whitman’s revival of Shakespeare and Company continued Beach’s legacy of supporting aspiring writers, journalists and artists, and its comfortably crowded shelves are still a mecca and a haven for readers from around the world.  The bookstore website still offers internships to aspiring students.  The tradition continues in the heart of Paris, in the Latin Quarter, across from Notre Dame.

Interested readers can find many books related to the history of Shakespeare and Company at the Community Library, including the Letters of Sylvia Beach, Sylvia Beach and the Lost Generation by Noel Riley Fitch, and Sylvia Beach’s own history, published in 1959, Shakespeare and Company.   You might also want to check out the Alice B. Toklas Cookbook, a unique glimpse into the lives, loves, and cuisine of the Left Bank.

Published in: on December 15, 2011 at 11:07 am  Leave a Comment  

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