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  • Writer's pictureThe Publishing Post

Bookshops Across the Globe

By Holly Presswell, Christiana Jasutan and Tamara Yamamoto

Today the Bookshop team is taking you by the hand around the world… step by step… one bookshop at a time…

Shakespeare and Company, 37 Rue de la Bûcherie, 75005 Paris, France

Photo by: BBC

Located in the heart of Paris, sitting opposite the Notre-Dame, is the Shakespeare and Company Bookshop. This famous bookshop was founded by American George Whitman and first opened its doors in 1951. Since then, the store has thrived in the literacy world. When the doors first opened, writers and intellectuals were invited in to sleep among the many books on benches that doubled up as beds. It is now estimated that over 30,000 writers and artists have stayed the night, including Ethan Hawke and David Rakoff. Every guest was asked to complete three things during their stay – read a book a day, help out around the shop and produce a one-page autobiography. Many of these autobiographies are now stored in the store archives in their thousands. To add to this impressive résumé, the store launched the Paris Literary Prize to help unpublished writers around the world and is now working on setting up its own publishing firm.

Dujiangyan Zhongshuge Bookstore, Sichuan

Located in Chengdu, China, is a book lover's dream. The architecture designed by X+Living is beautiful. The bookstore is located over two stories with a cathedral feel, with towering arches and columns, in the rooms due to the mirrored ceilings and polished black floor tiles which reflect the bookcases. The bookstore holds over 80,000 books from floor to ceiling, with light belts on each shelf to create the perfect light effect. Over the two floors, you can find a cafe, play area for the children and plenty of seating for people to sit, read and work. “We needed to coordinate every part of the space to ensure that any functional item, whether it is a bookshelf or a desk, does not break away from the theme of the concept and at the same time has a sense of beauty,” said Li Xiang, the founder of X+Living when asked about his design.

Honesty Bookshop, Hay-on-Wye, Wales

This list wouldn’t be complete without a bookshop from the famous Hay-on-Wye, the “Welsh town of books” and home to the Hay Literary Festival. With just over 1,400 residents, this little town in Wales has around forty bookshops; one of them is the Honesty Bookshop, which is an outdoor bookshop with no staff, open 24/7. This unmanned bookshop sells books for around £1 or less per book, and they take payment only by cash and trust their customers to drop their payment in a box. The bookshop itself is in the Hay Castle grounds, and all payments made to the bookshop go to the Hay Castle Trust.

El Ateneo Grand Splendid, Buenos Aires

Formerly a 1050-person seating amphitheatre, El Ateneo Grand Splendid now houses more than 120,000 titles. Buenos Aires is dubbed as heaven for book lovers; in 2015, the Guardian listed that the country has twenty-five bookstores for every 100,000 people. El Ateneo Grand Splendid is also claimed to be the most beautiful bookshop in the world, which is hardly surprising considering the building is a beautifully preserved antique theatre. The building was originally opened in 1919, a centre of arts and culture, particularly famous for its tango performances. Now it has been refurbished and reopened as a bookstore, leaving some of its interior features behind. The stage remains alongside the thick red curtains that encased the stage; this space currently houses a comfortable cafe inside the bookshop. The theatre boxes remain untouched, a space for book lovers to lounge and read the books when the weather is bad outside. Sometimes a live pianist plays in the afternoons.

Boekhandel Dominicanen in Maastricht, the Netherlands

This extraordinary bookshop is located in a 13th century Dominican Church in Maastricht – rich with history. In 1261, the Dominicans were given permission to establish a monastery in Maastricht. They constructed a monastery and a church that remained in the old Maasstad for five centuries. In 1794, the French army conquered the city, and in 1795, it was incorporated into the French Republic. This brought an end to the history of the religious mendicant order in Maastricht, and the church was then used by the French cavalry as horse stables. In the centuries that followed, the building served many purposes: from a depot for the city, concert hall (MSO), snake house, boxing stamp (Bep van Klaveren), to a (children's) carnival stamp.

After some intensive restoration of this special monument by the Architectural firm Merkx + Girod, it was turned into a bookshop in 2006. Upon entering, you will be amazed at the full height and sight of Gothic architecture alongside a herculean walk-in bookcase covering several floors. From the high vaulted ceilings and stunning wall paintings (including one even dating back all the way to 1337) to the gorgeous bookcase, this place is a must-visit.



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