The Bouquinistes of Paris are the people that run the little green stalls you see lining the Seine. These stalls are all filled with amazing old antique books, first edition hardbacks, old magazines and posters.They salvaged books from raids on aristocrats’ libraries during the French revolution and hid resistance material during the Nazi occupation.
The trade itself can be traced all the way back to the 16th century when they used to transport their wares around in wheel barrows then set up stalls that were packed up at the end of each day. It wasnt until 1859 the city finally granted them permission to establish themselves in permanent fixtures along the Seine, allowing then to leave all the items locked up in the boxes overnight. In 1992 the stretch was designated a UNESCO World Heritage site and currently there are 250 bouquinistes located on the 3 kilometer river bank.
The spaces belong to the city and are alloted free of charge on a first-come, first-served basis as vendors retire, move on or die, and the waiting list to get one of these boxes is currently about 2 years. Each vendour is allowed a total of 4 boxes as long as 3 of them are dedicated to books and the other one then to what ever the vendor chooses as long as it is keeping in with tradition. In the last few years some vendors have succumbed to the tourist demand and started selling some of the less traditional souvenirs, such as plastic Eiffel tours and fridge magnets. The parisian officials have recently started to perform stall checks and anyone found not complying with the rules are punishable by removing authority either temporarily or permanently. The move has angered many traders who accused the authorities of over-zealous meddling and say they can no longer earn a living from selling second-hand books.
I was fortunate enough to be able to browse through these historic stalls and I picked up some lovely old magazines and although they are in french, it makes no difference to me as I just love owning a little piece of history!