Picturing Sylvia

The papers of Sylvia Beach (1887-1962), the American expatriate proprietor of the Paris bookshop Shakespeare & Company, best known for publishing the first edition of James Joyce’s Ulysses (1922), have been one of the most frequently consulted literary archives in the Manuscripts Division for more than a half century. Beach’s English-language book shop was a meeting place for American authors of the Lost Generation, including F. Scott Fitzgerald and Ernest Hemingway, as well as for French, English, Irish, and other writers during the 1920s and 1930s. Found among almost eighty linear feet of papers are thousands of photographs that document Beach’s life, times, and friendships. These include portraits by Man Ray, Berenice Abbott, Gisèle Freund, and other leading photographers. For details about the papers, consult the finding aid.

Beach’s superb photo archives have been complemented recently by a fortuitous rediscovery within the Department of Rare Books and Special Collections. After Beach’s death on 5 October 1962, these materials remained in her Paris apartment at 12 rue de l’Odéon. In 1964, Howard C. Rice, head of Rare Books and Special Collections, traveled to Paris and stayed at the Font-Royal Hotel for the months of March and April, during which time he packed Beach’s archives, library, paintings, and other materials for shipment to Princeton. The Library formally purchased them later that year from Beach’s estate, administered by Holly Beach Dennis, her sister and executor. While in Paris, Howard Rice wisely asked André Jammes, son of the antiquarian bookseller Paul Jammes, whose bookshop was in the Saint-Germain-des-Prés district, to photograph Beach’s apartment and library with everything in place. André Jammes, it should be noted, was to become an eminent historian and collector of modern photography. Jammes gave Rice a roll of twenty-two 35-mm black-and-white negatives, recently rediscovered in Rare Books and Special Collections. The negatives are being scanned so that high-resolution images of eight different views can be kept on file. Researchers consulting Beach’s papers will be able to review the images in the Reading Room. Below is one of the photos, showing Paul-Émile Bécat’s well-known portraits of Sylvia Beach and Adrienne Monnier, as they were in Beach’s apartment. The two portraits are today proudly displayed on the first floor of the renovated Harvey S. Firestone Memorial Library.

Additional photographs related to Sylvia Beach, including some that show her as a child growing up in Princeton, have also come to the Manuscripts Division in recent years in the Frederic Dennis Papers on Sylvia Beach (C1540) and Noel Riley Fitch Papers (C0841). For more information, search finding aids or contact Public Services, at rbsc@princeton.edu

André Jammes, Photograph, 1964

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