What did Ernest Hemingway read in Paris? What about Gertrude Stein, James Joyce, Simone de Beauvoir, and Aimé Césaire?

The Shakespeare and Company Project uses the records of Sylvia Beach’s famous bookshop and lending library to reveal the reading practices of many of the century’s most influential writers, along with hundreds of other artists, intellectuals, and students who lived in Paris between the two world wars.

Learn about the members of the Shakespeare and Company lending library. Discover where they lived. Browse and search the books they borrowed—and read the books themselves. All at the Shakespeare and Company Project.


In 1919, an American woman named Sylvia Beach (1887 – 1962) opened an English-language bookshop and lending library on the Left Bank in Paris. She called it Shakespeare and Company, and it quickly became the center of expatriate life in the city. In 1922, she published James Joyce’s Ulysses under the Shakespeare and Company imprint, making the bookshop and lending library famous around the world. Over the next two decades, she sold and loaned books—everything from the avant-garde poetry to birth control manuals to the latest philosophy. In 1941, she closed the bookshop and lending library during the German occupation of France. Shakespeare and Company would never reopen, but she continued to loan books from her apartment until her death.

The Shakespeare and Company Project focuses on the lending library, featuring images and data from Beach's archives at Princeton University. Three sources are especially important: lending library cards, logbooks, and address books. The Project also includes articles about how the lending library worked, its most popular authors, the geography of Paris, and much more.

Researchers can download the Project’s datasets, which provide a vivid and unique 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.

The Shakespeare and Company Project is a work-in-progress. For updates, follow us on Twitter and Instagram.

Questions? Contact us.