The J. Paul Getty Museum

Place de la Bastille [bouquiniste]

Object Details


Place de la Bastille [bouquiniste]


Eugène Atget (French, 1857 - 1927)




Paris, France (Place Created)


negative 1910–1911


Albumen silver print

Object Number:



17.1 × 22.9 cm (6 3/4 × 9 in.)

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Object Description

This secondhand book dealer on the place de la Bastille was so engaged in reading from her merchandise that she ignored Eugène Atget as he made this photograph. The books--arranged on the stand in side-by-side receding rows, or lying flat against the front, or piled on top of one another--create a dynamic geometrical composition that is further underscored by Atget's diagonal perspective.

Traditionally, used books have been sold in Paris from stands like these, which are closed at night and during wet weather. This vendor used stacks of books, rather than struts, to hold the stand's lids aloft. When she was ready to close up, the dealer would fold the lids down and the fronts upward.

The famous Bastille prison that stood nearby once housed prohibited books, which were considered as dangerous as its other occupants, persons charged with crimes against the Crown. Mobs destroyed the hated structure at the beginning of the French Revolution in 1789.

The Man in the Street: Eugène Atget in Paris (June 20 to October 8, 2000)
  • The J. Paul Getty Museum at the Getty Center (Los Angeles), June 20 to October 8, 2000

Szarkowski, John and Maria Morris Hambourg. The Work of Atget. 4 vols. (New York: Museum of Modern Art; Boston: Distributed by New York Graphic Society, 1981-1985) vol. 4, p. 65.