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Coordinates: 48°51′11″N 2°20′50″E / 48.85296°N 2.34728°E / 48.85296; 2.34728
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Bouquinistes de Paris (2007)

The Bouquinistes of Paris, France, are booksellers of used and antiquarian books and rare vintage postcards who ply their trade along large sections of the banks of the Seine: on the right bank from the Pont Marie to the Quai du Louvre, and on the left bank from the Quai de la Tournelle to Quai Voltaire. The Seine is thus described as 'the only river in the world that runs between two bookshelves'.[1]


Engraving by Jean Henry Marlet after Adrien Victor Auger, Bouquiniste quai Voltaire 1821.

The tradition of the second-hand booksellers began around the 16th century with little market peddlers. Under pressure from booksellers, a settlement of 1649 prohibited stalls and the display of books on the Pont Neuf. The authorities at the time were rather anxious to limit parallel markets not subjected to official censorship. Travelling booksellers during the period were driven out and then reinstated under approval.

The traditional emblem of the second-hand booksellers is "a lizard looking at a sword".[citation needed]

The term "bouquiniste" appears in the dictionary of the Académie française in 1762.[2] The term "boucquain", which derived from the Flemish boeckijn ("little book"), appeared in 1459 and is recorded as "bouquin" towards the end of the 16th century.[3]

In 1859, concessions were implemented by the city of Paris and the bouquinistes were permitted to be established at fixed points. Each one is entitled to 10 meters of railing for an annual fee of 26,35 F and a 25 F licence. The openings are from sunrise to sunset. Finally, in 1930 the dimensions of the "boxes" were fixed.

During the 1970s, the bouquinistes felt threatened by the construction of the Voie Express Rive Gauche on the bank of the Seine. By then, Parisians' interest for literature decreased (more TV and radio), leading to a decline in the quality of the antiques distributed by the bouquinistes.[4] French President François Mitterrand was a regular customer of Paris' bouquinistes.[5]

vintage postcard of Paris. Motive: "Eiffel Tower stool" on the bouquinistes banks of the Seine in Paris, 1973

Installed along more than three kilometers of the Seine and declared a UNESCO World Heritage site, the 240 bouquinistes make use of 900 "green boxes" to house some 300,000 old books and a very great number of journals, stamps and trading cards.

The second-hand booksellers of Paris have inspired booksellers in other cities such as Ottawa, Beijing and Tokyo.

Excerpt from the "Rules of Bouquinistes"[edit]

A bookseller closes his box for the day

Article 9 of the by-law of October 1993, signed by Jacques Chirac:

The boxes used by book stores will be of a type approved by the Administration with an external bodywork determined by the dimensions below, for a maximum length of 8.6 metres:

  • Length: 2 metres
  • Width: 0.75 metres
  • Height:
    • Seine side: 0.6 metres
    • Shore side: 0.35 metres
  • (These dimensions are for closed boxes, lids included).
  • During use, the upper edge of the opened box should not reach over 2.1 metres above the ground.

In popular culture[edit]

  • The Bookseller (2012), a mystery novel by Mark Pryor (Seventh Street Books, Amherst, NY), features a bouquiniste character named Max Koche.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Lang, Kirsty (22 Jun 2010). "The Paris Bouquinistes". BBC Radio 4. BBC Programmes. BBC. Retrieved 14 October 2019.
  2. ^ "The Bouquinistes of Paris". Atlas Obscura. Retrieved 2022-04-29.
  3. ^ "BOUQUIN". Ortolang, Centre National de Ressources Textuelles et Lexicales (in French). Retrieved 2023-08-22.
  4. ^ "Les bouquinistes | INA", JT 20H (in French), 24 February 1974, retrieved 2023-11-09
  5. ^ Vincendon, Sibylle; BRESSON, Gilles; Lebovici, Elisabeth. "Dans Paris sur les traces du Président". Libération (in French). Retrieved 2023-11-09.

48°51′11″N 2°20′50″E / 48.85296°N 2.34728°E / 48.85296; 2.34728