Cabinet of Curiosities

“Let yourself be found by a book” -William Shakespeare

On The Town | Victoria Oscarrson | December 2008 / January 2009

The facade of Shakespeare & Co. on Sterngasse (Photo: Shakespeare & Co.)

Between the Internet and the world-wide financial meltdown, it’s not an easy time for book stores. It is perhaps all the harder for a shop trading in foreign language books in an out of the way Central European capital.

So few were all that surprised when Vienna’s British Bookshop announced it was filing for bankruptcy on Nov. 11. There were other factors, perhaps, but it sent a chill down the spines of English-speaking booklovers, huddling over a Melange at the Café Corb, wondering what was happening to civilization.

The good news is that Vienna still has Shakespeare and Company, a charming and much-loved shop at Sterngasse 6, just off Ruprechtsplatz .

Tucked away on a picturesque cobblestone street in this intimate and charming corner of the city near Schwedenplatz on what are rare remains of medieval ramparts, this Wunderkammer is overloaded with books scratching the ceiling in a creaky building charmed by age.  Founded in 1982, the shop chose its name to honor the Sylvia Beach’s famous Shakespeare & Co Bookshop in Paris,  center for artists and literati of the Lost Generation, where writers like James Joyce, D. H. Lawrence, Ernest Hemingway,  T. S. Eliot, and Gertrude Stein came to meet and read and make literary history.

Owned and operated for many years by Elisabeth Zobel, Shakespeare & Co., was purchased  in Sept. 2005 by Guy Perlaki. Now in his late thirties, Perlaki had learned the business from Zobel, and with with the help of his mother and sister, Sheila, and ultimate respect for the power of the written word, he is carrying on the tradition.

Shakespeare & Co is part shop, part reading room, part home for books, writers and readers, a sanctuary for information, education and ideas old and new.  The world in such a reader’s room is life under a magnifying glass.  Every visitor and age, familiar and foreigner is welcome to come and browse, to experience books as sources of pleasure, inquiry and replenishment.

Shakespeare & Company

1., Sterngasse 2


Mon. – Sat., 9:00 – 21:00

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