1887 - 1962

“Fitting people with books is about as difficult as fitting them with shoes.”

– Sylvia Beach

Sylvia Beach moved to Paris in 1916 after duty as a Red Cross nurse during WWI. Intending to study French literature, one day she discovered Adrienne Monnier’s bookshop, Maison des Amis des Livres, on rue de l’Odeon. Charmed by the store and the woman, Beach dreamt of one day opening a shop like it in New York. However, given the exchange rate starting a business in Paris proved more feasible, so she opened Shakespeare and Company, the first English lending library and bookstore in France. Her business flourished, requiring more room so she moved her English language bookstore across the street from Monnier’s French one. The two women became lovers, living together for 36 years until Adrienne’s suicide in 1955. Beach and her bookshop became famous in 1922 when she published James Joyce’s groundbreaking novel Ulysses. When the book’s explicit sexual passages prompted censorship concerns in the U.S. and England, she found a French typesetter who could not read English. Beach was an integral part of the American expatriate scene in Paris during the interwar period and the store survived the Great Depression thanks to the generosity of several wealthy patrons. Shakespeare and Company remained open after Paris fell to the Nazis, but was soon forced to close. Beach was interned for 6 months during the war, hiding her books in the vacant apartment upstairs. In 1956 she wrote a memoir of the store with wonderful descriptions of the cultural and literary life of Paris filled with first-hand reminisces about such giants as Ernest Hemingway, D.H. Lawrence, Andre Gide, T.S. Eliot, Ezra Pound, Gertrude Stein, and Samuel Beckett. She died in her beloved Paris in 1962 at the age of 75


Gender Female

Sexual Orientation Lesbian

Gender Identity Cisgender

Ethnicity Caucasian/White

Faith Construct Protestant

Nations Affiliated United States France Spain

Era/Epoch First-wave Feminism (1848-1930) Great Depression (1929-1939) Interwar Period (1918-1939) Jazz Age (1910-1940) Progressive Era (1890-1920) Roaring Twenties (1920-1929) World War I (1914-1918) World War II (1939-1945)

Field(s) of Contribution





Commemorations & Honors

Plaque Installed at Site of the Now Defunct Shakespeare and Company Bookstore in Paris to Commemorate Sylvia Beach Publishing James Joyce's Ulysses

Founded Shakespeare and Company Bookstore in Paris (1919)


Original Biography Author
Owen Keehnen
Biography Edited By
Victor Salvo
Resources Coordination
Carrie Maxwell