History of Paris Bouquinistes

Written by on February 1, 2016 in Guest Blogs

history-of-paris-bouquinistes

The word bouquiniste means secondhand bookseller. The origin of the word is from the German word “buch”. One of the most fascinating places in Paris to experience book joy is along the Seine where you’ll find the second hand booksellers with their beautiful, green book boxes…

There are two tales that claim to be the origin of these famous booksellers’ boxes that you will find lining the road along the River Seine and no one knows for sure what is the true history of Paris bouquinistes.

Boat sinks, book shops are born

Some claim that several centuries ago, a boat transporting books, was sunk in the river near the Cathedral of Notre Dame. The sailors of the ship threw themselves into the water to save as many books as possible. Those they salvaged, were sold to passersby as the sailors tried to recuperate some of their lost wages. Apparently, it turned out to be a lucrative ploy. But there’s no real evidence to back this lovely story up.

A 500 year old market

Most likely this tradition started around the 16th century when market peddlers started to sell books. In 1649, a decree was passed prohibiting the display of books on the Pont Neuf, influenced by disgruntled book store owners.  The law was later revoked and since 1859 the bouquinistes have been allowed to sell their books and other goods at fixed points along the river. The opening hours were set from sunrise to sunset and continue to be the same to this day.

paris booksellers

There are a few rules to set up a box. You have to apply for a stall and may install up to four boxes, they must all be painted green, a colour known as vert wagon, the colour of old train carriages.

The bouquinistes have grown to be one of the most iconic symbols of the city. You can find the green boxes along the Seine from Quai de Louvre to Pont Marie and from the Quai Voltaire to the Quai de la Tournelle. Effectively they form a book shelf of three kilometers, managed by 240 sellers with 900 boxes. This is where you’ll find antiquarian books, old magazines, stamps, souvenirs, magnets, posters of old covers and Paris. Since 1991, the bouquinistes have been recognized as part of a UNESCO World Heritage site.

By Darina Nykl who lives in Holland where she works in a hospital and is an author. She blogs about the stories she is writing which are mostly set in Amsterdam, Paris, Provence and the Cote d’Azur, places that inspire her: darinanykl.com

Related Articles

How the French do politics

I live part of the year in Provence and one day I was reading Le Monde and a headline about a “sexy politician” caught my eye. “Well, those are two words you don’t see together very often,” I thought. So I read the article and found out that there had been a poll asking French […]

Continue Reading

A quiet bistro in Paris

A quiet bistro in Paris

Written by on February 21, 2019 in Guest Blogs

It was lunchtime in the Saint-Germain-des-Prés area of Paris, and I was ravenous looking for a place to eat away from the usual tourist traps. I turned down a quiet street and saw the most unassuming bistro. In fact, I wouldn’t usually have considered going in but I decided to take a chance. As soon […]

Continue Reading

A potted history of the Cathars

A potted history of the Cathars

Written by on February 18, 2019 in Guest Blogs

Catharism has been described as “the most successful heresy in history”. In Languedoc, “Pays Cathare” signs dot the countryside. One cannot drive far in any direction without coming upon the ruins of a Cathar fortress. Who were the Cathars? “Cathar” is allegedly derived from the Greek word, katharos, meaning “pure”. The Cathars were also known […]

Continue Reading

The Transhumance of Provence

The Transhumance of Provence

Written by on February 15, 2019 in Guest Blogs

The people of Provence have been raising sheep for centuries. You see flocks of them all over the countryside, grazing under the watchful eye of shepherds. But Provencal summers are scorching hot and sheep have heavy wool coats so they’re moved to cooler pastures. The transhumance in Provence The answer  to dealing with the heat, […]

Continue Reading

The Four Queens of Provence

The Four Queens of Provence

Written by on January 14, 2019 in Guest Blogs

There have been many famous families in history. Take the Curies, for example: Marie Curie won two Nobel Prizes and her husband, daughter and grandson each won one. Quite the talented family! And then there are the Wright brothers and the Brontë sisters. And let’s not forget those comic masters, the Marx brothers. But imagine […]

Continue Reading

Subscribe

If you enjoyed this article, subscribe now to receive more just like it.

Subscribe via RSS Feed

Comments are closed.

Top