Secrets of the Legendary Shakespeare and Co. Bookshop

Aproject to digitise records from the bookshop and lending library Shakespeare and Company offers a window into Paris during the jazz age, revealing the reading habits of literary titans including Ernest Hemingway, James Joyce and Gertrude Stein.

The handwritten cards show that in 1925, decades before he wrote his novel The Old Man and the Sea, Hemingway was borrowing Joshua Slocum’s memoir, Sailing Alone Around the World. And the records, scrawled by the shop’s clerks, chart how Stein matched intellectual pursuits with lighter reading including TH Crosfield’s historical romance A Love in Ancient Days, and Andrew Soutar’s fantasy Equality Island.

When Sylvia Beach opened Shakespeare and Company in 1919, English-language books were expensive and hard to find in Paris. Writers and artists who had flocked to the capital of literary modernism rushed to sign up for Beach’s library service. Along with Hemingway and Stein, writers from Aimé Césaire to Simone de Beauvoir, Jacques Lacan, Walter Benjamin and Joyce all became members – and would have been chased up for late returns with a drawing of an exasperated Shakespeare pulling out his hair.

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