the iconic vintage bookstores of Paris along the Seine river
The bookstores along the Seine in Paris

You know you are in Paris when you see them,booksellers are one of the essentials of the Parisian postcard. True symbols of the banks of the Seine today, these book enthusiasts were already experimenting with books in the 16th century!

However, it was with the birth of the printing press in 1450 that the book trade took a new turn. In the 16th century, small hawking merchants began to take possession of the banks of the Seine to sell their books, often second-hand.

Trestles, wooden or wicker boxes, or simply spread out on the floor, all means are good to display their goods. The Pont Neuf, built in 1606, is particularly popular with these book sellers. But this is without counting on the mistrust of booksellers and the pressure of the royal authorities who, from the mid-16th century, regulate the book trade with arrests and sentences prohibiting the presence of booksellers-peddlers. It was at the beginning of the 17th century that the latter were finally allowed to sell on condition that they paid an annual royalty.

The truce was short-lived, however, and it was against the backdrop of the Fronde (1648-1653) that the booksellers were threatened with extinction. On the one hand, royal authorities, booksellers and police are fighting to suppress illegal shelves. On the other hand, sellers of uncensored pamphlets and tabloid scandals attempt to trade. During the 17th century and until the middle of the 18th century, open-air booksellers were in turn driven out and then reinstated under approvals. 1789: officially “booksellers” The fate of booksellers changed with the French Revolution and it was in 1789 that the term “bookseller” entered the dictionary of the French Academy.

It is a prosperous period for these merchants who are more and more numerous to gather on the Pont Neuf, center of all the entertainment. Under Napoleon I, second-hand booksellers gained ground with the construction of new quays. In 1859, City Hall services set up concessions allowing vendors to set up boxes in fixed locations. Years after years, the number of “booksellers of the Seine” continues to increase: Today, it is 3 km of old or contemporary books, engravings, stamps and other magazines that can be surveyed, all governed by Paris city hall

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