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Strasbourg for Book Lovers – The New York Times

Strasbourg for Book Lovers - The New York Times

Attention, bibliophiles: Put Strasbourg, the largest city in eastern France, on your radar. Once home to the godfather of publishing — the 15th-century printing-press pioneer Johannes Gutenberg — the city is the UNESCO World Book Capital for 2024. Through next April, more than 200 events and activities will take place in and around Strasbourg, a polyglot city on the German border whose half-timbered gingerbread houses, gabled roofs, picturesque canals and church spires seem to have sprung from a storybook of their own.

Among the events are exhibitions devoted to Gustave Doré — a Strasbourg native and perhaps the 19th-century’s most celebrated illustrator of literary works — and Julie Doucet, a groundbreaking Quebec graphic novelist and visual artist. The annual Fête des Imprimeurs on June 29 and 30 in Place Gutenberg will showcase all of the trades involved in bookmaking, including through interactive workshops.

But the UNESCO events aren’t the only reasons to visit. Strasbourg has many spots for the literary-minded that are permanent fixtures, from comic shops and indie book emporiums to historical libraries and antiquarian specialists. Here are six favorites.

A native of Mainz, Germany (about 100 miles away), Gutenberg lived in Strasbourg in the 1430s and 1440s, developing the initial plans for his revolutionary moveable-type printing press, which would come to fruition in Mainz in the 1450s.

To honor him, Strasbourg in 1840 erected a statue in a square near the city’s red sandstone cathedral, whose Gothic design another German visitor, Johann Wolfgang von Goethe, famously rhapsodized about. (The future literary star studied in Strasbourg in the early 1770s, living nearby at 36 rue du Vieux-Marché-aux-Poissons.)

The stone statue shows Gutenberg, bearded and solemn, holding a page bearing the French words “Et la lumière fut”—“And there was light” — a reference both to his famous Bibles and to the enlightenment of humankind made possible by the spread of printed matter.

On Tuesdays, Thursdays and Saturdays, some of the fruits of Gutenberg’s invention — used books and historical prints — go on sale nearby during the open-air book market along rue des Hallebardes, just across the street.

The smells of leather, parchment and dust suffuse La Jument Verte, an antiquarian book shop along rue des Juifs, one of the streets near the cathedral where some of Europe’s…

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