Slowly I walk along the quay of the Seine. The rippling water on my right side and the busy streets on my left side. I’m walking from the Eiffel Tower to the Notre Dame with my final destination Place de Bastille. On my way I ran into a couple of green stalls. Not just one, there are many more of them. They sell old postcards, posters, some small souvenirs but most of all, a lot of books. They are called, bouquinistes. I wonder where they come from, there are so many of them, there must be some kind of story behind it?
And, I was right. After some research I discovered that these bouquinistes exist for more than 400 years! They were created in the time of Henry IV, he opened the first inhabited bridge in Paris in 1604. The name of the bridge is Pont Neuf. Booksellers who weren’t able to afford an own bookstore, could rent a bouquiniste for a small amount. The bookstores were less happy about it and tried to get a ban on the bouquinistes. From that moment, the bouquinistes were constantly charged with stricter laws. Again and again. At the end the protest of the bookstores achieved nothing. In 1859 the bouquinistes got their own permanent place along the Seine! They all got about 10 meters of sales area. They also didn’t have to pack their stuff at the evening anymore.
And now, 400 years later, they are still there, proud that they have sustained. They are allowed to stay there, they deserve it! I mean, isn’t it an amazing thought that these bouquinistes exist for so long! They are even included in the World Heritage List of UNESCO.
I look at the proud owners for a while, they have a beautiful workplace. Sitting quietly in their chairs along the Seine, waiting for what the day will bring.
The Bouquinistes are on the right side of the Pont Marie to the Quai du Louvre and on the left side from the Quai de la Tourelle to the Quai Malaquais!