René Schilling
Bookwalks - Buchführung - Litteratours


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Paris, France  

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The centre of Paris is, actually, quite small and you can do almost everything by foot. Let us start at the place St. Michel, more or less opposite Notre Dame, on the rive gauche, the traditional University side (quartier latin) of Paris. You get there by métro (take no. 4 to St. Michel, take exit marked fontaine St. Michel or no. 10 to Cluny/La Sorbonne--St. Michel/Notre Dame) or RER (take line C or line B to St. Michel/Notre Dame) and get out at quai St. Michel. I usually get lost here, but just find the Seine and go to the pont St. Michel. There, looking south, you see the St. Michel fountain which is surrounded from the left and the right by the yellow marquises of Gibert Jeune (4, pl. St. Michel). 

Gibert Jeune has several shops and the one you want is the one for Sciences, Techniques, Medecine & Informatique which is on the right (if you look southward) next door to the economics shop. In front of the entrance, under the sunblinds, there are already a few used books, but usually there are only used textbooks, other rubbish and, for years, an almost complete edition of the oeuvres of Gaston Julia in not very appetizing condition. Do go inside where a factory-like interior in bright yellow colour welcomes you, and head for the basement where Mathematics and Physics books are lodged. They are ordered by subject (fairly accurately, they seem to have knowledgeable staff). Gibert Jeune stocks new (livres neuf) and used (occasion) books side by side. Second-hand books have a yellow label on the spine and are easily spotted. Usually, they are of very good quality, hardly used, and often just remainders or slightly older stock. Discounts vary and can be substantial. Watch out for the sliding shelves, often some interesting books are behind the front row. Nowadays Gibert Jeune has almost exclusively books from French publishing houses, only very few international publishers. The last time I was there, Stats and Probability was quite good, but this varies a lot.

Gibert Jeune is often good for a surprise. They do have some old stock and sometimes the booksellers themselves seem to be surprised by what you can dig out there (a couple of years ago, I found Frigye Riesz' Collected Works dirt cheap! But this was before they moved from the first floor to the basement). The place to look for bargains is underneath the display tables and round the corner next to the information desk where you find some aluminium containers with not yet sorted-out books. Before you check out (the checkout is on the ground floor), make sure that you have your University staff I.D. with you to get your remise enseignant, i.e., the university teacher's discount,---it is worth 5% off, the maximum discount you can get on new books in France. Don't worry if you hold a foreign I.D., I never had problems with my U.K. cards.
The other Gibert Jeune shops are, as far as maths is concerned, disappointing. The main shop, pretty much opposite the Science & Technology shop, is disappointing. They only have textbooks for schools. In the basement there is a good stationery department.

Now go down the bld. St. Michel, southward, direction Jardin du Luxembourg. Keep on the right side. There are quite a few bookshops. Most of them display books outside. Keep away, there is only junk and no reasonable maths or science book. Just a few hundred metres down the street (pass the bld. St. Germain, on the left you see the ruins of the Thermes de Cluny) a bright blue sunroof is greeting you. This is Gibert Joseph (30 bld. St. Michel. The ugly web-page is here, click on the almost invisible "notre réseau" button). They have a few outlets there, but the shop you want is their main shop (it is the first one).  Once in the store, you go up to the third floor and arriving there on the escalator, maths and physics is now round the corner, to your left. Like in Gibert Jeune, used and second-hand books are mixed and second-hand books have yellow stickers on the back. The last time I was there, only very few second-hand books were there. The books are organized by subject (fairly accurately, again, librarians are well-educated in France, after all). Recent publications are on the tables between the shelves. Gibert Joseph has many French-language publications, also from smaller publishing houses (like Cassini), alongside international (i.e., English) books. Second-hand books are sometimes a little overpriced with about 70% of the original ticket. Again, a University staff I.D. is worth a discount of 5%, this time you can get it directly at the checkout.

Further down the bld. St. Michel look out for the Jardin du Luxembourg. It is across the rather busy  place Rostand. Alongside the park, at a sharp angle, the rue de Médicis branches off to the right. This is truly a antiquarian street. House number 9, rue de Médicis is

Albert Blanchard, and this shop is worth visiting. It specializes in Sciences and Engineering which means, to a good extent, Mathematics. The shop itself is small and a little bit ancient-looking, with a distinctive booky smell. Once inside, go to the back wall where there is a massive bookshelf and a rather dangerous looking ladder which shrieks as you climb up. And you should. On this shelf you will find many old books from French publishing houses and the great French maths series of the beginning of last century. Some of them do have reasonable prices (unless you want to buy something by Lebesgue, Fréchet, Poincaré etc.). The quality of the books is usually very good. On the right end of the shelf you find probability theory. Now look on the centre table. On the left side (where the checkout is) you find a variety of books, some of them maths, some from other disciplines. There are also some reprints from the éditions A. Blanchard and J. Gabay (usually too expensive). Finally, on the right side, opposite of the checkout, there is a small, ancient turning-shelf with foreign-language (i.e. German and English) second-hand books. Overall prices are not cheap, but reasonable, and quality is good. Blanchard does have catalogues (which will be sent to you for the asking) but most of the stock is in some storage in the banlieue and it takes a couple of days to get the material to the shop. So, do ask well in advance if you want to see someting specific. Opening hours are a bit peculiar, they are closed on Mondays and there is a lunch break from 12:00 to 14:30. The last time I was there, I even managed to get 5% off---which is most unusual for second-hand bookshops---but I bought quite a lot....

Go back to the huge crossing (pl. Edmond Rostand), cross the Bld. Saint-Michel and head straight into the Rue Sufflot (you see the great dome of the Panthéon in front of you) and walk some 200m towards the Panthéon. Keep on the right side of the street, the third street sideways (and the first major one with traffic-lights), about 2/3 of the way to the Panthón is the Rue St.-Jacques. Cross and turn right into St.-Jacques. Pretty much near the corner Sufflot/St. Jacques there are two interesting shops: the official outlet of the

CNRS publishing house (151 bis, rue St-Jacques) but, alas, the haydays of maths publishing of CNRS are long gone. There are only a few maths books in the very back corner of the shop, but it is worth a visit anyway. I was keen getting some oeuvres complèts, but my expectations were met with some disappointment. They do not keep back stocks, but miraculously older books turn up from time to time. Nevertheless worth visiting. Next to it, with the same address is the

Librairie Jacques Gabay (151 bis, rue St. Jacques) which offers reprints of french maths books (éd. Jacques Gabay), mainly from the beginning of last century. The prices are a little questionable and sometimes the photographic reprint is not soooo good and in some earlier editions two pages appear next to each other on a landscape B4-page. Anyway... The maximal 5%-discount is usually not available (unless you buy big or are a member of the SMF-Société Mathématique de France). Gabay does ship books and, within Europe, the prices are reasonable: € 6.00 for the first and € 3.00 for any other book.

Go north along the rue St. Jacques, cross into the rue Sufflot, the Panthéon is to your right and then in your back. Two streets further down, parallel to the Bld. St. Michel, there is the rue Victor Cousin which leads you past the Sorbonne and which becomes - without further notice - the rue de la Sorbonne once you've crossed (it is to your left, actually) the Pl. de la Sorbonne. Close to the rue des Ecoles there is

6, rue de la Sorbonne which is the home of Éditions Hermann. The office looks so seventies from the outside, you cannot miss it. Inside this is a curious thing: an office with 3 desks and, on the walls, partly obstructed by desks and office utensils, all available publications of Hermann! You have to ask the staff to show you the maths section (the last two shelves on your right), mainly to make place for your investigations. Staff is really kind and helpful and you can still find things which are not any longer listed in catalogues.... but, no illusions, there is NO extensive backlist. Prices are the usual prices and the SMF membership card gives you 5% off.... You can pay by credit card (Visa, Master Card), cash is a bit of a problem since they don't have change. When I entered the shop I could not get rid of the impression that I am one of the few customers ever bumping into the `shop'.

Never mind , let's continue down the rue de la Sorbonne, cross the rue des Écoles, continue into the rue du Sommerard leading to the entrance of the Musée de Cluny. Although it is worth a visit we pass it, turn left into the rue de Cluny and turn right into the bld. St. Germain.

On your right, opposite the métro station Maubert-Mutualité there is the shop of the Librairie Eyrolles (bld. St. Germain 61). The maths section is in tha basement, roughly in the middle of the basement. Currently the most extensive selection of maths books, both French and foreign. The order is a bit cryptic but you'll find your way 'round. The sections with popular maths (on the small shelves in the middle) and the history of maths and other sciences are rather nice, too.

Further down the bld. St. Germain, where it turns to the left to cross over the tip of the Ile Saint-Louis, follow straight into the Rue Monge and, a few metres further down go half-left into the rue des Ecoles. Here you see already the heavily fortified (fence, barbed wire, spikes and a ditch) Jussieu campus. But the Jussieu campus bookshop of the Université de Paris VI (Pierre & Marie Curie) and VII (Denis Diderot) at Jussieu (enter from rue Jussieu close to the métro lignes 7 or 10 stop Jussieu, go to tours 44 and 54 at street level) was closed the last time I went there, probably it fell victim to the refurbishment which is currently going on there. Since I cannot imagine Paris VI-VII without a bookshop, you should check the place anyway.

That's about it on the left side of the Seine. Other shops to look for maths books are in the Marais (take métro ligne 1 stop St. Paul, cross the rue de Rivoli and enter the rue pavée). There, at 7bis, rue pavée is Mona lisait (preiously: Culture), a remainder bookshop in a barn-like building. They have loads of books, badly displayed but mostly in very good condition and, sometimes, a few maths books. I got there some very cheap remainder stocks of the édition Diderot, but it is pure chance if they have anything. For booklovers, it is worth a visit. You'll find maths on the left side in the back of the first floor (there is a small blocked staircase downstairs) but, watch out, it is only a small section. If you ask me, I'd nowadays rather pay a visit to the bookshop of the Paris municipal library just across the road. No maths, but a lot of other nice things around books. There are plenty of Mona Lisait chain-stores all over Paris and they sell big-format, glossy (remainder) books of the inevitable Taschen-Verlag of Cologne. Some of the shops do have maths, but definitely not more than Culture and also at a higher price. If you must, you could try the shop in the rue Saint-Martin (close to the Rambuteau/Centre Pompidou) where you head straight for the basement, downstairs you turn to the right and inspect the shelves around the second (far back) pillar. There is some maths, physics etc., but pretty limited.

Have a look at the librairie Lavoisier at 11, rue Lavoisier, the part which is between the bld. Malesherbes and the Square Louis XVI. Take the métro (ligne 9, St. Augustin, the church which is a bit out of proportion if you come ever so close to it... but it is a magnificent view if seen from the Madeleine) since it is a bit far off, but they have a decent selection and it was the only shop stocking books from Hermes publishers (obviously an imprint of Lavoisier) and their book selection was a little different from the other bookshops. They also import books. Again, do use your Uni staff I.D. to get 5% discount. They also have a shipping service and, within the EU, shipping is free if you buy for more than 60 Euros.

Finally there is FNAC, the main shop being in les Halles (take the éscalateur Lescot down to bottom level, the steepest one, you can't miss it). They have hardly any book on maths (only the odd volume in the que-sais-je? series) but this shop is definitely worth visiting. It is a large store with the flair of a basement supermarket and you get various things there: books, records, comics (good selection, by the way) and some services like photo development etc. They give 5% on all books if you are a registered member. Registration is free, if you have a French address. So far to that. The que-sais-je section is in the very back of the shop, the maths section is in the science section, one large bookshelf (1m by 2m) in the back. Mostly popular stuff, Flammarions, and the odd (francophone) textbook.

Other useful links: Paris bookshops by