Saturday, March 14, 2009

From The Writer's Almanac: The Birthday of Sylvia Beach

It's the birthday of the woman who opened Shakespeare & Company bookstore, Sylvia Beach, (books by this author) born in Baltimore, Maryland (1887). Sylvia Beach moved to Paris, and there she met a woman named Adrienne Monnier. Monnier was one of the first women in France to open a bookstore, which was called La Maison des Amis des Livres (which translates as "The House of Friends of Books"). It was a store, a lending library, and a place to promote Modernist writers.
Sylvia Beach was so inspired by Monnier and her vision that in 1919 she opened her own English-language bookstore, Shakespeare & Company, on the Left Bank of Paris. Shakespeare and Company became a gathering place for the expatriate writers living in Paris — writers like Gertrude Stein, Ernest Hemmingway, F. Scott Fitzgerald, and James Joyce. Sylvia Beach met James Joyce in 1920, just as he was finishing Ulysses. He couldn't get it published because all the big presses thought it was too obscene, so she offered to publish it for him, even though she'd never published a book before. To fund the project, she got people to buy advanced copies. She had no editors, so she edited the huge manuscript herself, and she published it on James Joyce's birthday, February 2, 1922.

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