Paris bouquinistes face clampdown over souvenirs

Tue Sep 7, 2010 1:21pm EDT
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By Vicky Buffery and Hortense de Roffignac

PARIS (Reuters Life!) - With over 200 stalls lining the banks of the river Seine, Paris' antique booksellers or bouquinistes are a familiar feature of the city landscape, and one that can trace its history back more than four centuries.

But in recent years, faced with a changing market, an increasing number have moved away from bookselling and tapped into Paris' lucrative tourist trade, stocking cheap souvenirs alongside fading classic volumes of Rousseau and Moliere.

Irritated by the proliferation of plastic Eiffel Towers and Paris-themed fridge magnets, Paris city council has cracked down on the trend, reminding the bouquinistes that only one of their four boxes can be devoted to souvenir-selling.

The move has angered many traders who accused the authorities of over-zealous meddling and say they can no longer earn a living from selling second-hand books.

But the town hall says the bouquinistes get their plots free of charge and therefore have a duty to respect the rules and preserve a long-standing cultural tradition.

"The Paris city council isn't interested in handing out free plots to people who want to sell souvenirs made in China to Chinese tourists on holiday in Paris," said Lyne Cohen-Solal, deputy mayor in charge of commerce and crafts.

"The bouquinistes are part of Paris' cultural and commercial heritage, one of the treasures of the city, it's normal to want to help protect them," she told Reuters in an interview.


<p>View of Paris' antique booksellers or bouquinistes along the banks of the river Seine September 2, 2010. REUTERS/Charles Platiau</p>