What do these writers have in common? They were all members of the Shakespeare and Company lending library.
In 1919, an American woman named Sylvia Beach opened Shakespeare and Company, an English-language bookshop and lending library in Paris. Almost immediately, it became the home away from home for a community of expatriate writers and artists now known as the Lost Generation. In 1922, she published James Joyce’s Ulysses under the Shakespeare and Company imprint, a feat that made her—and her bookshop and lending library—famous around the world. In the 1930s, she increasingly catered to French intellectuals, supplying English-language publications from the recently rediscovered Moby Dick to the latest issues of The New Yorker. In 1941, she preemptively closed Shakespeare and Company after refusing to sell her last copy of Joyce’s Finnegans Wake to a Nazi officer.
The Shakespeare and Company Project uses sources from the Beach Papers at Princeton University to reveal what the lending library members read and where they lived. The Project is a work-in-progress, but you can begin to explore now. Search and browse the lending library members and books. Read about joining the lending library. Download a preliminary export of Project data. In the coming months, check back for new features and essays.