Bertrand is the oldest bookshop in business, according to the Guinness World Records. Explore this historic place in Rua Garrett, in Lisbon.
Chapter I – The history
The bookshop has been operating for 245 years at the same address, but the history of Bertrand is even older and deserves a place in the pages of a book. It involves romance, a natural catastrophe, revolutionaries and intellectuals, a suicide, a closure, and a glorious return.
Everything started in 1732, when a Frenchman, Pedro Faure, established the bookshop in rua Direita do Loreto. However, it was with the name of his partner and son-in-law, João José Bertrand (and his brother, Martinho) that the bookshop would be known for. The direct descendants of Bertrand were in charge of the business until 1876.
Chapter II – The relocations
With the big Earthquake of Lisbon in 1755, Bertrand bookshop moved to Rua das Necessidades, near where today the Ministry of Foreign Affairs is located. Only in 1773, the bookshop returned to the Chiado area, already in Rua Garrett, numbers 73-75, its definitive place. Today, the bookshop is part of the Municipal Inventory of Heritage of the Lisbon City Council as a “property of cultural value”.
Chapter III – The honours
Over the centuries, important names of Portuguese culture visited the bookshop. Recently, Bertrand paid tribute to them, naming its rooms with some distinguished names. In each room, there is a biography of the authors in Portuguese and in English and their main works, including the respective translations when available. Here are some works from each author:
Aquilino Ribeiro in Room 1
José Saramago in Room 2
Eça de Queirós in Room 3
Almada Negreiros in Room 4
Alexandre Herculano in Room 5
Sophia de Mello Breyner in Room 6
Fernando Pessoa in Room 7
Chapter IV – The tragedy
Poets, writers, political historians and opponents to the regime visited the place on their way to the Chiado coffee shops and social gatherings. The tragedy marks the history of Bertrand when José Fontana, managing partner of the Company and idealist defender of socialism and associations committed suicide in the bookshop basement in 1876. Some years later, the bookshop would close the doors.
Chapter V – The rebirth
Bertrand reopens in 1893 to become, once again, the meeting place of intellectuals and authors. Today, there are more than 50 of its bookshops all over the country. Find here the Bertrand bookshop closest to you.
Chapter VI – The events
In the 21st century, Bertrand adopts a new dynamic, favouring the contact with writers through monthly meetings, autograph sessions, reading clubs, literature courses and the Storytelling Time, dedicated to the younger readers. Check the next events at Bertrand.
Chapter VII – The tourists
Besides the cultural interest, Bertrand is also a tourist spot.
The Portuguese tourists are, in general, clients of Bertrand in other regions of the country, but they want to know the Chiado address. They look for news, tourist guides and merchandising, as well as for the most carefully made editions and the highlights at the bookshop.
Foreign tourists look for, above all, books of Fernando Pessoa in English or books of the history and culture of Portugal (tiles, heritage, gastronomy), world classics such as The Little Prince, novelties and recent best-sellers, and merchandising such Bertrand packs, postcards and literary pack of cards. They take a lot of photographs, ask many questions about the space and the Portuguese authors. After buying, they ask for a stamp of the world oldest bookshop.