Monday, March 12, 2012

Paris Booksellers Along the River Seine

Paris Book Stalls by the River Seine - photo by karishma.me

Stroll along the river Seine by the Pont Neuf or the left bank and you'll find one of the most iconic spots in Paris - Les Bouqinistes - or the Parisian used and rare booksellers.  Stretching out for over a mile from Pont Neuf to the Left and the Right bank, these Parisian booksellers have marked the city for over 300 hundred years.  Boasting of over 200 independent stalls carrying up to 400,000 new, used, rare and collectible books and magazines, these book stalls are sure to delight any booklover with a truly unique Parisian experience.

Bouqinistes first appeared in as early as the mid 16th Century when they would trade goods from carts.  During the Crusades, these goods would included illegal Protestant pamphlets sold discreetly.  

The Bouqinistes of the Seine began to flourish after the French Revolution when they had access to entire libraries confiscated from the rich.  But it was not until the end of the 19th Century that they were granted permission to permanently bolt their stall boxes on the stone wall of the river banks.  The french government then regulated the size and color of the boxes In 1952.   Because of their role in preserving a cultural heritage, these bouqinistes are exempted from paying taxes by the government today as long as they conform to the regulations.  They must be open at least four days a week regardless of the weather or the foot traffic, and not more than one out of four box stalls can contain "souvenirs". The rest must be literary material.  

Rifle through their wares and you'll find a variety of surprises including ancient editions of books, old books, second-hand contemporary novels, comic books, engravings and prints, magazines, posters, antique postcards, collector's stamps, souvenirs and other odds and ends.  To keep their wares safe, the iconic green-colored boxes are locked up at night.  

Prices are surprisingly reasonable, too.  The only downside is that while they have books in English most of them are in French. However if you can't find what you want the stall owners will be happy to look for it for you.  It is this personalized service that has kept them going despite the presence of more formal bookstores in the city.  Still, you never know what hidden treasures you might find among their wares so browsing is still a highly enjoyable treat that may last for hours. I've been to the bouqinistes once in my life during my honeymoon. But it was only for a few minutes and I can tell you it was hardly enough!  I did manage to get this rare book - a hardcover illustrated french edition of The Little Prince from 1953 for 20 Euros (about P1,200). 

Photo courtesy of The Virtual Tourist 

Photo courtesy of The Virtual Tourist


Photo courtesy of The Virtual Tourist

Photo courtesy of 23photosofparis

Photo courtesy of A Traveler's Library

Photo courtesy of A Traveler's Library

Photo Courtesy of My Paris Blog

Photo by amanthei

Photo by amanthei



4 comments:

  1. wow sounds like heaven! lucky you you've been there, wish i could go there someday...

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  2. I was at the wrong side of the Seine when I was there, didn't see any of these. :( But I saw some of the stalls for souvenirs near Notre Dame, so I think it was on the same street, but I was going to the wrong direction. Oh well. Next time then! :)

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  3. Reminds me of the street vendors that sell books in Saigon. After all, Vietnam was a French colony.

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  4. Waw. It’s wonderful. My dream is to visit Paris. I am in love with Paris.
    Besides, I am book addict and the mixture between them makes me crazy.

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