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Profiles in Publishing: Sylvia Beach

Name: Sylvia Beach

Birthdate/Place: March 14, 1887, Baltimore, Maryland

Bookseller /Publisher Associated With: Shakespeare and Company

Claim to Fame: American-born, Sylvia Beach first arrived in Paris at age 15, after her father Sylvester’s appointment as the assistant minister of the American Church in Paris. She moved back to America at age 18, but was unable to resist the pull of Europe, and soon moved back. Here, she discovered (her future partner) Adrienne Monnier’s bookstore, Maison des Amis des Livres. Inspired, Beach wanted to bring a branch of Monnier’s bookstore to New York as a contemporary vendor of French literature. Unable to afford a New York rent, Beach launched a sort of reverse dream of sorts–opening a primarily English language bookstore in Paris, named Shakespeare and Company. Shakespeare and Company’s–as well as Beach’s–biggest contribution to literature is the initial publication of the English-language edition of James Joyce’s Ulysses.

Our Inner Literary Nerd Loves: Shakespeare and Company weathered the Fall of Paris during WWII, but was forced to close by the end of 1941. Beach was interned for six months, and kept all her books hidden in an empty upstairs apartment. The shop was famously liberated by none other than Ernest Hemingway. George Whitman, the man who revived the store in the 1950s, died a year ago this month. You can read a bit more about him here, visit the store’s lovely website, or even follow them on Twitter.

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