On July 11, 1925, James Joyce visited the Shakespeare and Company bookshop and lending library in Paris and checked out four books about his fellow Irishman Oscar Wilde. On December 21, 1937, Aimé Césaire visited the lending library and checked out Langston Hughes’s The Weary Blues (1926) and Countee Cullen’s Color (1925). On August 12, 1940, Simone de Beauvoir checked out Ernest Hemingway’s The Fifth Column (1938). Two weeks later, she checked out Richard Wright’s Native Son (1940).
The Shakespeare and Company Project, a Humanities Council’s David A. Gardner ’69 Magic Project, has now made available a new custom-designed web application which allows users to learn more about the reading lives of these and other important writers, including Gertrude Stein, Walter Benjamin, and Hemingway himself. The project was led by Professor of English Joshua Kotin and Lead Developer at The Center for Digital Humanities Rebecca Sutton Koeser. It draws from the papers of the Paris bookshop and lending library’s founder Sylvia Beach which are held by Special Collections at Princeton’s Firestone Library. The University has been working since 2014 to digitize records from the extensive archive.
The Project reveals what these famous members read (and read in common), and their connections to various communities of readers. By highlighting the circulation of both famous and lesser known works, and by placing major writers within a larger context, the Project provides a striking new portrait of the Lost Generation and life in interwar Paris.
The newly digitized record and details of the Project are featured in The Guardian UK.