While at the Université Sorbonne, American George Whitman managed to amass a rather large collection of English books that he would sometimes lend or even sell to friends. Soon Whitman turned his hobby into something more tangible, acquiring the perfect location for his adventurous business endeavor right across from Notre Dame in 1951.
Whitman didn’t just want to open up a simple bookshop—he wanted to create a “sanctuary for writers, aspiring writers and artists,” and that he did. For over 50 years, Shakespeare and Company has been a temple of books and hosting readings by published and unpublished authors, including Henry Miller, Anäis Nin and Alan Ginsberg. What Mother Goose is to nursery rhymes, Whitman and his shop are to the Parisian literary scene. It even looks like it could be part of a fairy tale: wishing well, creaking wooden steps, a slanting roof and all.