Why does the Shakespeare and Company Project identify the gender of lending library members?

The Shakespeare and Company Project identifies the gender of lending library members to better understand the demographics of the lending library community. For an account of our process and aims, see "Representing Gender in the Shakespeare and Company Project."

Why does the Shakespeare and Company Project identify the nationality of lending library members?

The Shakespeare and Company Project identifies the nationality of the lending library members to better understand the demographics of the lending library community. We rely on information from the Virtual International Authority File (VIAF) unless more accurate information is available.

Why do some lending library members have first and last names, while others only have last names, or last names and titles?

On the first page of lending library members, you’ll find Berenice Abbott and Mrs. Paul Abbott, Abdul and Ernst Olto Abel, Abelin and Yvonne Abelin, and Mme Ably and Mr. Ably. Why such variation? The Shakespeare and Company Project aims to provide the full name of each lending library member. When we don’t know the full name, we use the name in our sources. (On the lending library cards and in the logbooks, Sylvia Beach and her assistants rarely included first names, and used both English and French titles.) When there is significant variation between a member’s full name and the name in our sources, we provide both on the member’s page. Two examples: Katherine Anne Porter is listed as Katherine Anne Porter and Mrs. Katherine Anne Pressly, and is searchable by both names; Claude Cahun is listed as Claude Cahun and Mlle Lucie Schwob, and is searchable by both names.

Why do some names appear repeatedly on the list of lending library members? For example, “Miss Wilson” appears four times—could they all be the same person?

To decide whether members with the same name are the same person, the Shakespeare and Company Project developed a set of guidelines based on activity date and type. Consider the case of “Miss Wilson.” The name appears in the logbooks five times, associated with membership activity on November 9, 1923; April 10, 1926; August 20, 1927; September 7, 1927; and September 14, 1927. We infer that two of these activities belong to the same Miss Wilson: on August 20, 1927, she joined the lending library for one month, paying a 100 francs deposit, and on September 14, 1927, she received a 100 francs reimbursement. Do the other activities belong to this Miss Wilson? We do not know. We suspect that the activity on September 7, 1927—a reimbursement for 50 francs—belongs to a different Miss Wilson. When we are not confident that two activities belong to the same person, we keep them separate. As a result, some names appear multiple times on the list of lending library members. To learn more about our guidelines or to help identify members, contact us.

How does the Shakespeare and Company Project calculate membership start dates and end dates?

To calculate membership start dates and end dates, the Shakespeare and Company Project uses purchase dates from the logbooks. A one-month membership purchased on February 22, 1929 will have a February 22, 1929 start date and a March 22, 1929 end date. We only depart from this practice for early renewals. A one-month membership purchased on February 22, 1929 and renewed for one month on March 10, 1929 will have a February 22, 1929 start date and an April 22, 1929 end date, not an April 10, 1929 end date. The data exports include all membership and renewal purchase dates, and reimbursement dates.

What are the lending library “plans”?

In the logbooks, Sylvia Beach (or one of her assistants) used codes and keywords to indicate different membership plans. The most common codes and keywords are:

A: a plan allowing members to borrow “all books excepting those that have appeared within the last twelve months
B: a plan allowing members to borrow all books, “including the new books"
AdL: a discount for members of La Maison des Amis des Livres
Student: a discount for students
Professor, Teacher: a discount for educators
BTD, DBD: "by-the-day" or "day-by-day" membership

To learn more about lending library plans, read "Becoming a Member of the Shakespeare and Company Lending Library."

Why is there a blue icon next to the titles of some books and magazines?

The blue icon indicates that the Shakespeare and Company Project has not been able to adequately identify an item. Over 6000 items circulated in the lending library. About 500 have the icon, or 8%, along with an explanatory note on the item’s bibliography page. Some items cannot be identified because multiple items have the same title—for example, Big Money. Other items can only be partially identified—for example, Walt Whitman’s Leaves of Grass. (Different editions of Leaves of Grass collect different poems, and we do not which edition or editions circulated in the lending library.) To help the Project identify items, please contact us.

Blue icon next to the item, "Big Money."

Is it possible to get high-quality digital copies of the lending library cards?

Yes. Visit the Sylvia Beach Papers to download high-quality digital copies of the cards.

Why does the Shakespeare and Company Project include blank lending library cards, as well as envelopes, receipts, and other ephemera?

The Shakespeare and Company Project displays digital copies of all the material in Box 43 from the Beach Papers, including the front and back of every lending library card. We only exclude one item in the box: a notebook detailing sales of Havelock Ellis’s seven-volume Studies in the Psychology of Sex (1897 – 1928). We also display digital copies of lending library cards from elsewhere in the Beach Papers.

Shakespeare and Company closed in 1941. Why did members continue to borrow books until 1962?

Sylvia Beach continued to lend books from her apartment until her death in 1962. Members during this period included James Laughlin, Henri Michaux, and Richard Wright.

What is the Shakespeare and Company Project working on now?

The Shakespeare and Company Project is constantly augmenting and refining its member and book data. Over the next few months, we plan to post new articles and maps, and update the data exports. We also plan to post links to digital copies of the logbooks and a preliminary data export of "creators"—the authors, editors, and translators (etc.) of the items that circulated in the lending library.

Cite this document

“Frequently Asked Questions.” Shakespeare and Company Project, version 1.4.0. Center for Digital Humanities, Princeton University. December 12, 2019. http://shakespeareandco.princeton.edu/about/faq/. Accessed January 24, 2021.