The owner and his books │ Courtesy of Librairie Lucas Philippe
It’s hard not to be romantic about the familiar perfume of aged paper, the gleam of a well-preserved spine standing out from a row of faded, weathered contemporaries, and the feel of a much-loved volume – passed down, knowingly or unknowingly, for generations – fated to rest in your hands. If this sort of sensory indulgence sounds like an afternoon perfectly spent, then make a point of visiting these incredible antique bookstores around France.
As well as a huge range of vintage books – the last count taken in-store came to somewhere in the region of 60,000 volumes, 47,227 of which are available online – the Librairie Abraxas-Libris also stocks retro puzzles, board games, and toy cars. A recent arrival is the Jeu de Marseille, a card game invented by the surrealist André Breton in the 1940s. The cards and their figures were redrawn by Breton’s contemporaries including Max Ernst, André Masson, Oscar Domínguez, and Jacqueline Lamba. This kind of intriguing cultural artefact is very much the house specialty. Open every day, 10AM-12PM and 2PM-7PM.
Created in 1985 by Liliane and Patrick Laurencier, the book-loving duo now have two stores in Bordeaux, located close to the riverfront and just a few moments away from one another. Both locations boast a diverse offering, from ancient, exquisitely printed manuscripts to 21st-century editions, as well as drawings and maps. Rare and second-hand books are selected with the utmost care. The Librairie Ancienne Patrick Laurencier maintains close ties to local collectors and the pair use their extensive expertise to bring their customers the best the region has to offer. Open Tuesday to Saturday, 10AM-12PM and 3PM-6:30PM.
The Librairie Christian Chaboud carries more than 20,000 books, including modern, antique, and limited editions copies, that cover a vast range of topics. A significant portion of these are listed on the shop’s online catalogue and, if there is a title you are specifically looking for, a targeted search can be carried out by the team on your behalf prior to your visit. The shelves are constantly being replenished thanks to acquisitions from across the capital, the surrounding towns and villages, and, on occasion, further afield. Antique engravings, photographs, and documents are also in plentiful supply. Open by appointment.
Librairie Les Autodidactes is one of Paris’ most obscure and intriguing specialist bookstores. Many of the editions on its shelves deal with intellectual topics such as Surrealism, Dadaism, the Avant-garde, Situationism, and Lettrism. It also carries more general works on literature, poetry, and fine art. Additionally, the store is the primary point of sale for Éditions Claire Paulhan, which specializes in literary autobiographies, and has a healthy collection of autographed works. Open Monday to Saturday, 11AM-6:30PM.
Shelves filled with beautiful books at Librairie Lucas Philippe | Courtesy of Librairie Lucas Philippe
Located in the heart of Lyon, near the Quai de la Saône and with a view of the old city, the Librairie Philippe Lucas was founded in 1983. The bookshop specializes in vintage books on subjects like hunting and fishing, however, it also carries titles from across the disciplines, including literature, history, gastronomy, the arts, science, nature, and travel. If you’re lucky, you can also find spectacularly designed vintage works by the writer Jules Verne. The store’s online shop is also extremely well-managed and up to date with the latest promotions. Open Tuesday to Saturday, 10AM-6:30PM.
The Librairie Ancienne Denis has been run and cared for by the Denis family for more than 80 years. This treasure of the Tours antique world specializes in vintage books and engravings from the 16th to the 19th centuries, particularly in the fields of history, literature, regionalism, and travel. In 2008, Pierre Duchemin, a rare book expert at the Hôtel des Ventes Giraudeau, took over the store’s management and made it his mission to put the entire catalog online. If you’re hunting for a book and it’s not immediately apparent, don’t hesitate to contact Duchemin for a tailored search.
The Librairie Ancienne Clagahé has been in business since 1986, offering its customers old and modern books, documents, manuscripts, archives, and photography on a whole host of subjects and from across the eras. The expert advice available in this Lyonnais bookstore is second to none and their stand at the annual International Rare Book Fair at the Grand Palais in Paris is unmissable. Nestled as it is in the heart of the city’s antique district, a visit here can be part of a much longer wander back through time. Open Monday, 2PM-7PM, and Tuesday to Saturday, 10AM-12PM and 2PM-7PM.
The Librairie Eric Castéran opened at 26 Rue du Taur in Toulouse in 1994. This brilliant store is tucked away on a semi-pedestrianized street between the Place Capitole and the magnificent Basilica Saint-Sernin. On offer are old and, in many cases, autographed books, as well as first editions and illustrated volumes on travel, history, and the sciences. The store also provides a binding and restoration service, if you have found a book but fear it hasn’t got much life left in it. Open Tuesday to Saturday, 11AM-12PM and 3PM-6PM.