George Whitman, whose Shakespeare and Company shop in Paris was one of the most famous bookshops in the world, has died at the age of 98. The recipient of France’s prestigious Officier dans l’Ordre des Arts et des Lettres, Whitman was a key figure in the Parisian literary scene.
There had already been one shop named Shakespeare and Company in Paris, run by Sylvia Beach, but that establishment had closed during the Second World War. George Whitman opened his shop in 1951 and renamed it Shakespeare and Company, in honour of Beach’s original shop, thirteen years later.
Shakespeare and Company was more than a bookshop, however. It was also a library, a performance space, a meeting point and a source of inspiration for generations of visitors. The likes of Lawrence Ferlinghetti, William Burroughs and Anais Nin passed through its doors, and the shop is set to continue under the ownership of Whitman’s daughter Sylvia Beach Whitman.