For centuries, secondhand bookstalls have dotted cities around the world. Yet although used booksellers can be seen plying their trade worldwide, it is only in Paris that they have become part and parcel of the landscape, with their metal treasure-troves bolted to the bridges and quays along the Seine, quaintly decorating the capital. As much an attraction as a point of reference, the bookstalls can tell you stories that span the city’s life history.
Paris’ secondhand booksellers set up their first official stalls in the early 17th century, having long flourished on the black market despite laws against the trade. Although seen as spivs, the booksellers have always played an important role. In the mid-sixteenth century, they took on the perilous task of bootlegging forbidden books throughout France’s devastating religious wars. And they were also responsible for the survival of treasures from the aristocracy’s libraries, plundered in the French revolution. Even today, they can still turn up rare publications believed long gone, such as a long-lost and priceless engraving by William Blake designed to illustrate Robert Blair’s poem The Grave.(more from ambafrance )
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