Imaging Paris: Les Bouquinistes

[Photo by wallyg]

My favorite Flickr posts combine photos with some text, always a richer context for a blind flaneur trying to see images. Here is what photographer wallyg said about the bouquinistes:

Les Bouquinistes, the riverside vendors who peddle used books, have set up shop along the Seine in the Latin Quarter since the mid-1500s, when shops and stalls lined most of the bridges in Paris. The term bouquinistes comes from the Dutch word boeckin, meaning small book. Early dealers used wheelbarrows to transport their goods, but they eventually fastened trays with thin leather straps to the parapets of the bridges.

After the Revolution, entire that libraries were seized from nobles and clergymen found their way onto the second-hand market here. In 1891, bouquinistes received permission to permanently attach their boxes to the quaysides. The waiting list to become one of Paris’ 250 bouquinistes, today, is over eight years.

Each bouquiniste is given four boîtes (boxes)-each 6 feet long, 14 inches high, and 2.5 feet deep, and rent is paid only for the stone on which the boxes rest (currently less than 100 per year) with the most coveted spots awarded based on seniority. Maintenance costs are paid by the bouquinistes. While tourists tend to be drawn by the lure of cheap magnets, keychains and posters, the city allows no more than one box of souveniers for every three boxes of books. Bouquinistes are required to open at least four days a week, and keep everything locked up inside when they aren’t.

Sign me up! I’ve got the books and I love the Seine.

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