Sylvia Beach’s Shakespeare and Company was not only a bookshop. It was also a lending library. Members included Gertrude Stein, James Joyce, Ernest Hemingway, Aimé Césaire, and Simone de Beauvoir, among many others.
The Shakespeare and Company Project uses the lending library records to reveal what members read and where they lived. Search for specific members, and browse and read the books they borrowed. Discover the lending library’s most popular authors. Explore maps of Paris. Learn about expatriate life between the world wars. And so much more.
Researchers can download the Project’s datasets, which present a unique and vivid portrait of the development of modernism, detailing the demographics and reading practices of lending library members. An introduction to the datasets is available in the Journal of Cultural Analytics.
Sylvia Beach opened Shakespeare and Company in 1919, and it quickly became a home away from home for a community of writers and artists now known as the Lost Generation. In 1922, she published James Joyce's Ulysses—a feat that made Shakespeare and Company famous around the world. In 1941, she closed the bookshop and lending library after refusing to sell Joyce's Finnegans Wake to a Nazi officer. After the war, she continued to loan books from her apartment until her death in 1962. Princeton University acquired Beach’s papers in 1964. The Shakespeare and Company Project launched in 2020.