Monday, September 19, 2011

Unique Bookstores

Above: The entrance and an interior view of Shakespeare and Co. in Paris, France, just steps from Notre Dame. On my very first trip to Europe in 1986, I visited the legendary Shakespeare and Co. bookstore intending to buy a book. Having just spent a week in London with a friend, I suddenly found myself on my own in Paris so when I came across a very old hardback copy of Dickens' A TALE OF TWO CITIES, it seemed to be the perfect purchase from the bookstore, and the perfect souvenir of my trip. When I approached the front to buy, I was excited to see that the equally legendary George Whitman, owner and grand-nephew of poet Walt Whitman, was manning the counter. He was annoyed that someone--presumably not him--had taken it upon themselves to mark the book down from 35 francs to 30 francs. For a moment, I worried that he thought I had done it myself in an effort to cheat him out of five francs, but he stamped my book with the "Shakespeare and Company Kilometer Zero Paris" stamp anyhow (seen below), took my money and I was on my way. (The stamp refers to the fact that the store is located at the "Kilometre Zero" spot, a spot which is considered to be the center of Paris and the center of the country really, the starting point from which all distances in France are measured.)

Below: George Whitman

Above: Two views of The Selexyz Bookstore in Maastricht, Holland which is in an old Dominican church. The coffee shop (in the second image, seen from above) located on the altar features a little visual pun: a communal dining table in the shape of a cross!

Above: The entrance to the Lello Bookstore in Porto, Portugal. One would think it is also a converted church, but it was designed and built in 1906 to be a bookstore. Designed in a Neo-Gothic style, it features a beautiful, double floating staircase seen in the following three images below.

Below: The El Ateneo Bookstore in Buenos Aires used to be a theater, in case you couldn't tell...

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