What do these writers have in common? They were all members of the Shakespeare and Company lending library.
In 1919, an American named Sylvia Beach opened Shakespeare and Company, an English-language bookshop and lending library in Paris. Almost immediately, it became the home away from home for a community of expatriate writers and artists now known as the Lost Generation. In 1922, Beach published James Joyce’s Ulysses under the Shakespeare and Company imprint, a feat that made her—and her bookshop and lending library—famous around the world. In the 1930s, she catered increasingly to French readers, supplying English-language publications from the rediscovered Moby Dick to the latest issues of The New Yorker. In 1941, she preemptively closed Shakespeare and Company after refusing to sell her last copy of Finnegans Wake to a Nazi officer.
The Shakespeare and Company Project uses sources in the Beach Papers at Princeton University to reveal what the lending library members read and where they lived. Beginning in February 2020, you will be able to search the library's members, browse their borrowing records, and explore maps of Beach's Paris. Later in the year, you will be able to search and browse the library's books, rediscovering lost classics and identifying communities of readers.
The Shakespeare and Company Project is a work-in-progress. To get involved or to receive updates, please contact us.