When bibliophiles located in the United States are asked what the most famous bookstores are, ones like Powell’s City of Books in Portland, Ore., City Lights in San Francisco, Prairie Lights in Iowa City and Faulkner House Books in New Orleans often come to mind. Meanwhile, British bibliophiles may respond with ones like Hatchards in London or St Ives Bookseller in St Ives. However, many of these people would be hard pressed to come up with the world’s oldest bookstore.
Established in 1732, Bertrand Booksellers, also known as Livraria Bertrand, oversees that very store, which is located in Chiado, an area of Lisbon, Portugal. That bookstore has moved since 1732, however, initially opening on Rua Direita do Loreto, about 5 miles north of its present location. Then an earthquake with a magnitude of around 8.5-9.0 devastated Lisbon in 1755, causing the bookstore to be moved to Capela de Nossa Senhora das Necessidades, more than 120 miles to the north, until it was able to be moved back to Lisbon and into its present location in 1773. But, despite it moving around early on, this famous bookstore has been a continuously operated business since 1732.
The Guinness Book of World Records confirmed the validity of this milestone in 2011.
It took 206 years of business for the company to open a second store, which it did in Porto, 190 miles to the north, in 1938. Its second Lisbon-area location was opened in 1963; this was situated 3 miles to the north of its main location. Today, the company oversees more than 50 bookstores, which are located throughout Portugal.
Just behind Bertrand on the list of world’s oldest bookstores is Moravian Book Shop, which was founded in 1745. It’s located in Bethlehem, Pa., 50 miles north of Philadelphia and 80 miles west of New York.