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

Maintaining a House in France From Afar

Buying a house in France is the dream of many but what if you live on the other side of the globe and have never even set foot in France? This describes Annette Charlton who made her dream come true and now lives between her homes in Newcastle, Australia and Brittany, France. So, is the […]

Continue Reading

French Lessons | Mastering verbs

A French shop assistant in Antibes’ old town asked me for the translation of a French word the other afternoon. We’d become bosom buddies in her quiet swimsuit store, but I was glad for the conversational distraction.  I hated swimsuit shopping. It brought out all my insecurities. As my new friend rang up my purchase, she complimented […]

Continue Reading

The pros and cons of taking your dog to France from the US

The first time I took my long-haired mini-dachshund, Ellie, to France, we spent two months traveling from Paris to Brittany and Normandy. Our last stop was the seaside resort of Agon-Coutainville, on the Cotentin peninsula which juts into the English Channel. There Ellie feasted on raw milk Camembert and prė-salė lamb. When we returned to […]

Continue Reading

Going to the butcher’s shop in France

A French town without a baker – it’s unthinkable – everyone would move away! A butcher is almost as important to French village life as a baker. The butcher sells the usual roasts and chops and chickens, as well as a variety of prepared foods. My wife Val and I live part of the year […]

Continue Reading

Dealing with administrative offices in France

Life isn’t all sitting around eating cheese and quaffing wine for expats in France. There’s the tricky issue of everyday life and administration to deal with too! Never annoy a Fonctionaire… I read somewhere that 20% of the French population work for the government. If you buy a home in France, you will eventually come […]

Continue Reading

Subscribe

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

Subscribe via RSS Feed

Comments are closed.

Top