Above: Howard Rice surrounded by Sylvia Beach’s personal papers, office files, and the sign for Shakespeare & Co., 31 March 1964. At left: Her desk and some books, 12, rue de l’Oléon, 31 March 1964.
When Sylvia Beach died in 1962, relict in her apartment were
books, business papers, correspondence, photographs, paintings, and literary
memorabilia. By agreement with her
sister, Holly Beach Dennis, Princeton purchased these effects in early 1964. Associate librarian for special collections,
Howard C. Rice arrived in Paris in late March and spent three weeks in the rooms over her famous
bookshop, Shakespeare and Company, 12,
rue de l’Oléon.
Even though Sylvia Beach had given away 5,000 books to the American Library in Paris in 1951
(New York Herald Tribune, April 25, 1951) and even though she had sold her ‘Joyce Collection’
(as she called it) to the University of Buffalo in 1959, the apartment held, counting just the books, according to
her sister’s lawyer, Richard Ader, 8,000 to
10,000 volumes. Untold numbers of papers
and other objects filled closets, shelves, and walls. Howard Rice described as a ‘struggle’ his
efforts to sort, collocate, organize, pack, and arrange shipping or further disposition
of the apartment’s contents. When Rice
returned to Princeton in April, he had completed dividing the contents as
• 31 shipping cases sent to the library filled with more
than 2000 books, hundreds of photographs, thousands of pages of personal and
business papers, as well as some paintings and artifacts. For customs purposes
Rice said these should be described as two paintings plus ‘books and papers for an
educational institution.” He also
described it as “‘the Sylvia Beach Collection’ proper — that is, her papers,
inscribed copies of books, first editions of American, French and English
authors, inscribed photographs, drawings, etc., …” Today these are arranged in two groups: the Sylvia Beach Papers (C0108) and the book
collection given the location designator ‘Beach.’
• Another group of books - on the order of 3,000 to 4,000 - “constituting
the basic library of English literature which once formed the core of the ‘Shakespeare
and Company’ lending library was presented “to the
University of Paris, for use in the library of its English Department, the
Institut d’Etudes Anglaises et Nord-Américaines.” Rice wrote that these books were “…. far more than a mere circulating
library for current reading. French
teachers, students, and English scholars, as well as translators and writers,
were in the habit of finding [at Shakespeare and Company], alongside the
avant-garde writers of the twentieth century, not only Shakespeare, but also, in his company, the Elizabethan
poets, the eighteenth-century novelists, the Romantics and the Victorians. Such books, which Miss Beach brought into
France, with persistence and discrimination, from across the Channel or the Atlantic, may
now continue their ambassadorial and fertilizing role among new generations at
the Institut’s library, located in the Rue de l’École de Médecine, in the ‘heart
of Paris,’ where Sylvia Beach lived for more than four decades.” (Princeton
University Library Chronicle, 26:1, p. 12) Current successor to the library of the Institut is the Bibliothèque du Monde Anglophone < http://www.paris-sorbonne.fr/fr/spip.php?article607>
•An unnumbered group of books was consigned by Howard Rice to
antiquarian bookseller André Jammes. One
document in the librarian’s records (AC123, box 51) shows these amounting to a
1500 Francs credit (or about $300).
•Maurice Saillet, a friend of Sylvia Beach since the 1930s, acquired her apartment after her death, and, according to Howard Rice’s notes, was “the key person during HCR’s sojourn.” Saillet’s collection of Sylvia Beach and Shakespeare and Company is now in the Carlton Lake Collection at the Harry Ransom Humanities Research Center at the University of Texas. It evidently includes some of Beach’s books.
Coda: In the late 1950s, Sylvia Beach prepared a 53 page list headed “The Library of Shakespeare and Company / Sylvia Beach / Paris - VI” together with a one page list of “Memorabilia from the Shakespeare and Company Bookshop, 12, Rue de l’Odéon - Paris -VI” Plans for making this list are mentioned in Sylvia Beach’s letter to
Jackson Mathews, dated 2 July 1959.
(Letters of Sylvia
Beach, ed. K. Walsh , p. 284). A copy of the list is in the
Noël Riley Fitch Papers (C0841, box 3, folder 10).
Coda II: Photographs from Howard Rice’s memoranda in C0108, box 276.