It is almost three centuries old and is in Portugal
The Guinness Book of Records recognizes the Bertrand bookstore in Lisbon as the oldest in the world. At least as far as this type of establishment is concerned that remains open to the public today, but it is by no means the first place in history where books have been sold.
The Portuguese bookstore that holds the title of oldest was founded in the 18th century, but to talk about the origin of bookstores we have to go back much further in time.
The origin of bookstores
Books have existed since the 6th century BC. C. At that time they were volumes in scroll format, handwritten on papyrus, the material par excellence for writing during the ancient world until the arrival of parchment.
However, although libraries as important as those in Pergamon and Alexandria were built, access to books was not more widespread until centuries later.
The greatest revolution that the book has experienced took place in the mid-15th century with the invention of the typographic printing press https://www.muyinteresante.es/historia/61455.html by Johannes Gutenberg.
By then, books had already been made in codex format for a thousand years, the entire Middle Ages, that is, just as we continue to make physical books today. However, Gutenberg devised a method that far surpassed the hand-copying of books, which could now be produced at a speed previously undreamed of.
Therefore, the first books as we know them today were sold in printing presses first. And if the first printing press in Europe was the Gutenberg, it would not be unreasonable to also award it the title of the first seller of printed books in history.
In fact, buying a book back then was a very different activity than today. Nowadays we are used to going to a bookstore and getting the title that interests us. We took it home in a complete edition, with its corresponding binding, ready to last ad infinitum on our bookshelf.
In the 15th century and until the Industrial Revolution it was common to buy books in printing presses, where you only took the stack of printed pages, loose sheets that the buyer was in charge of taking to a workshop to be bound according to their taste and possibilities. economic. Here is another precedent for bookstores: book binding workshops.
The first book sellers
Little by little, the literacy levels of the European population increased and books became increasingly everyday elements. This context encouraged the book sector to become better organized to take advantage of the incipient trade, in such a way that from the 16th century onwards it was possible to find the same premises where books were printed, bound and displayed for sale.
“One of the first printers to sell his works already bound was Aldo Manucio. Already in the 16th century, this Italian managed to make a name for himself in the emerging publishing world of the time from his workshop in Venice. His editions were popular and many sought to see themselves with a book under their arm bound in the Aldine style. The iPhone of the time for the Renaissance posture. Manucius, furthermore, was the precursor of the pocket book. He edited a collection of Greek and Latin classics in a smaller size than usual with the intention of returning to the book that portable character that it had had since Antiquity and that the great codices had neglected.
The oldest active bookstore
It was from the 18th century onwards that bookstores were common establishments in cities, places where books were sold just as they are sold today.
In this sense, the oldest book store still active is the aforementioned Bertrand located in Lisbon. Since the Discovery of America, Spain and Portugal were two of the most prosperous nations in the world, and their location made the Iberian Peninsula the largest commercial center of the time.
The exchange of both goods and ideas had prominent centers in ports such as Lisbon or Seville, from where many books left for America and the rest of Europe.
Bertrand is today the largest bookstore chain in Portugal, but its origin dates back to 1732, when the Frenchman Pedro Fauré began selling books in a store located on Rua Direita do Loreto. His daughter and heir to the business married Pierre Bertrand, after whom the bookstore would end up taking its name.
The Lisbon earthquake of 1755 damaged the store, so the bookstore had to be relocated until 1773 when it settled in a new location located at number 73 Rua Garrett, where there is still a Bertrand bookstore today.