Tuesday, May 19, 2020

About Shakespeare and Company


A confession. When, several years ago, I ambled into the bookshop Shakespeare and Company on the Left Bank and was growled at by the owner George Whitman (I think I interrupted his lunch), I thought I was following in the footsteps of Hemingway, Joyce, Pound and all the other expats who decorated Paris between the wars. Only now do I discover that there were two completely different shops, and that Whitman renamed his own in 1964 as a tribute to Sylvia Beach’s place on the rue de l’Odéon: she closed it in 1941, having refused to sell her last copy of Finnegans Wake to a Nazi officer, which is a story in itself, surely.

Which is only a preamble to the news that you can now find out who made use of (the first) Shakespeare and Co’s lending library, and what they borrowed, on this fun site. And, connected only by being around at the same time, you can wonder through Aby Warburg’s Mnemosyne Atlas from the safety of your own lockdown.

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