The bouquinistes have been a staple of Parisian culture for centuries, known as a go-to-source for out-of-print or rare reading material – but their livelihood is being threatened.
One of Paris’ most iconic sights are the famous bouquinistes: the booksellers who sell their wares day in and day out along the river Seine. With the trade dating back to the 1400s, the bouquinistes have been known for centuries as a go-to source for out-of-print or rare reading material, with both locals and travellers flocking here to find titles such as La Vagabonde, by the racy and controversial author Colette, or the first edition of the French comic book L’espiègle Lili, which dates from the early 1900s and was never reissued. Growing from around 20 sellers at the turn of the 17th Century, today there are about 240 bouquinistes in Paris. Their traditional green wooden boxes dot both banks of the Seine, reaching from the Musee d’Orsayto the Institut de Monde Arabe, with the largest concentration found at the entrance to the Latin Quarter, home to the famed Sorbonne University.