[Alyson Kuhn] Papeterie is one of my favorite French words. It refers to a shop (or department) selling stationery and related items; it is also the collective noun for paper stuff in general. So, you can correctly say, J’aime la papeterie. Georges & Co., on Paris’ Left Bank, is more than a papeterie—it’s also a gallery, an event space and a workshop.
The ink bar drew me right in, even though I don’t use a fountain pen. The shop, which celebrated its first birthday in November 2012, sells gorgeous bottles of custom-mixed ink every day. I was tempted to buy a bottle of orange—or tangerine!—to bring home, but common sense prevailed.
The paper lampshade installation is the handiwork of Alexandra Chardin, who works at Georges & Co. Customers were invited to write a little something, using one of the shop’s pens and inks, and Chardin suspended the inscriptions above the central table.
Store manager Delphine Mercier offered me the shop’s pair of brochures. Georges’ tagline—”the ultimate writing experience”—appears in English on the French version as well as on the English one. Mercier told me that a third version is in the works, for Georges & Co.’s many Japanese customers.
Luscious laid writing paper, with a big localized watermark (meaning, it’s in exactly the same spot on each sheet), is sold by the sheet, in case you need to dash off a special communiqué. The watermark includes a little silhouette of Notre Dame cathedral and the word Paris. I bought ten A4 sheets, five cream and five ivory. If I were as talented as Alexandra Chardin, I would figure out a way to make them into a lampshade.
Upstairs is the gallery and workshop space. A literary mannequin greeted me at the top of the steps, sporting a trench coat covered in the handwriting of Alexandra Chardin. I learned the following: Chardin does not have a website; the trench is not for sale; she does accept special commissions.
I browsed through the bookshelves and found two children’s stories that I could read with delight, so I bought both. Mémé t’as du courrier!, by Jo Hoestlandt with illustrations by Aurélie Abolivier, is an exchange of correspondence between Annabelle and her grandmother. Annabelle initiates the exchange as a way to practice typing on the family computer; she mails her letters to her grandmother, who does not use a computer and replies by hand. From her first letter, Annabelle experiences the anticipation of a response—and impatience when the reply is less prompt than she had hoped.
As for the hot pink butterfly clips, they are a joy. Their underside is a metallic blue gray that looks un peu dragonfly. Why I didn’t buy enough of them to fill a decanter is a mystery.
Le buveur d’encre (“the ink drinker”) by Éric Sanvoisin, with illustrations by Martin Matje, is the story of a little boy who does not like books. At his father’s bookshop, where he passes the time by observing the customers, he watches an odd-looking visitor take a little straw out of his breast pocket and—could it be true?—suck the ink off the pages of a book. The little boy gasps, the visitor takes off, and our hero is compelled to follow him…to the cemetery where “Draculivre” lives. That’s only the beginning.
Guess what? You do not have to take my word for any of this, because the entire Ink Drinker series has been translated into English by Georges Moroz, and the translation (based on the blurbs online) seems quite good.
I resisted the urge to buy a grown-up book called Cher Monsieur Queneau, by journalist Dominique Charnay. Raymond Queneau (1903–1976), the author of Zazie dans le métro, was an acquisitions editor at the French publishing house Gallimard for three decades. Charnay’s book reproduces 100 letters that aspiring authors sent to Queneau with their manuscripts. (Fortunately, Queneau kept every written scrap that came his way, including 164 letters from Iris Murdoch, written over a period of 30 years. Those letters now reside at Kingston University’s Centre for Iris Murdoch Studies.)
Georges & Co. is located at 90 rue du Bac, 75007 Paris. Walking up the rue du Bac from the Quai d’Orsay, Georges & Co. is a couple of minutes beyond Deyrolle (in business since 1831), the legendary two-story taxidermist at number 46, and a couple of minutes before you get to Foucher (in business since 1819), the venerable Parisian chocolatier at number 134.