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Sylvia Whitman

'Shakespeare & Company, Paris: A History of the Rag & Bone Shop of the Heart'

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“I created this bookstore like a man would write a novel, building each room like a chapter, and I like people to open the door the way they open a book, a book that leads into a magic world in their imaginations.” —George Whitman, founder. Drawing on a century’s worth of never-before-seen archives, this first history of the bookstore features more than 300 images and 70 editorial contributions from shop visitors such as Allen Ginsberg, Anaïs Nin, Kate Tempest, and Ethan Hawke. With a foreword by Jeanette Winterson and an epilogue by Sylvia Whitman, the 400-page book is fully illustrated with colour throughout.

Designed in Paris, printed in France.
For almost 70 years, Shakespeare and Company has been a home-away-from-home for celebrated writers—including James Baldwin, Jorge Luis Borges, A. M. Homes, and Dave Eggers—as well as for young, aspiring authors and poets. Visitors are invited to read in the library, share a pot of tea, and sometimes even live in the shop itself, sleeping in beds tucked among the towering shelves of books. Since 1951, more than 30,000 'tumbleweeds' have slept at the “rag and bone shop of the heart.” In this first-ever history of the bookstore, photographs and ephemera are woven together with personal essays, diary entries, and poems from writers including Allen Ginsberg, Anaïs Nin, Lawrence Ferlinghetti, Sylvia Beach, Nathan Englander, Dervla Murphy, Jeet Thayil, David Rakoff, Ian Rankin, Kate Tempest, and Ethan Hawke. Tracing more than 100 years in the French capital, the book touches on the Lost Generation and the Beats, the Cold War, May ’68, and the feminist movement—all while reflecting on the timeless allure of bohemian life in Paris.
Sylvia Whitman

Sylvia Whitman

Sparky second-generation owner of a legendary English bookstore

Shakespeare and Company, the legendary English-language bookshop on Paris’s Left Bank, has been a beacon for artists, writers, bohemians, and all sorts of other dreamers and freaks since George Whitman first opened its doors in 1951. Sylvia, his only child, joined George at the bookshop in 2002 after graduating from university in London. In 2006 George officially handed over the reins to her, just a few years before he passed away in his bedroom above the shop, two days after his 98th birthday.


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