A is for Antiquarian bookshops

A is for Antiquarian bookshops

Working at home is the dream of many people, but those who’ve achieved it know that remote work can be a lonely endeavor. I therefore have often found the intellectual atmosphere of antiquarian bookshops more stimulating than the one at home or in a public library, and more peaceful than the crowded coffee shops. A big part of the thought process behind the exhibition has been made in antiquarian bookshops and that is why I’d like to present you some of them.

Arkadia International Bookshop, an antiquarian bookshop established in 2008, provides an event milieu that is truly unique in Finland. Arkadia stocks books in dozens of different languages and its shelves are alluring to people young and old. The atmosphere draws people with different language backgrounds to hold discussion events and music and art performances. It is worth noting that the event activity at the bookshop, which is owned by artist Ian Bourgeot and his wife Liisa, connects citizens of the world with each other and promotes culture widely, but the costs of the work are covered with voluntary donations only. Their motto is a quote from Les Eaux mêlées (1955; Mixed Waters) by Parisian born Roger Ikor:

Fais bon accueil aux étrangers, car toi aussi, tu seras un étranger.’
(Bid good welcome to strangers, because you too will be a stranger)

When I started to plan the exhibition, the bookshop staff gave me this box. I really appreciated the label and that they let me collect all the interesting books, that might have an important part in the final exhibition, and save them to “my box”. While searching literature in the shelves I used different methods. First I was looking only for the interesting French books. Then French books with illustrated cover. Then books written by the French authors of whom Maria Herreros had made portraits. etc. etc.

At the time, I was going to organize the exhibit in the bookshop, but the venue was eventually changed during the process due to the artwork shipping problems (we had to cancel the original opening date) and after that, because of both parties’ busy calendars. Arkadia had however, a big impact on my line of thought. Here are some of the books I found while I was planning the exhibition. You can find them and many more in Arkadia Bookshop.


During the exhibition planning, many roads have led to Shakespeare and Company, at once legendary and clichéd – English language bookstore in Paris. The literary institution on Paris’s Left Bank is situated in the 5th arrondissement, and it was opened in 1951 by American George Whitman.

Additionally, the shop houses aspiring writers and artists in exchange for their helping out around the bookstore. Be Not Inhospitable to Strangers Lest They Be Angels in Disguise,’ is written above the entrance to the reading library. The quote has, over time, been wrongly attributed to both W.B. Yeats and William Shakespeare. But it was actually the bookshop owner, George Whitman, who wrote and possibly hand painted these words on the wall. The words are in fact paraphrased from the Bible: Do not forget to show hospitality to strangers, for by so doing some people have shown hospitality to angels without knowing it.’ (Hebrews 13:2) Read more about the extraordinary history of the bookshop here.

Marika Maijala: The Bookshop, 2019. Not on view. 


Further reading:

Jorge de Cascante: Not For Everyone. Book lover’s confessions in The Skirt Chronicles Vol III.

Anastasia Isakova: Dark Lines. Works by Ian Bourgeot. Arkadia International Bookshop, 5.11.-12.12.2015. Master’s Thesis. Praxis Master’s Programme. Academy of Fine Arts, University of the Arts Helsinki 28.1.2018

To see in the exhibition:

Maria Herreros: Shakespeare and Company, illustration from the book Paris Sera Toujours Paris, 2018.

Maria Herreros: La Garçonne, illustration from the book Paris Sera Toujours Paris, 2018. Watercolor and graphite on 300gm cotton paper 28 x 19,7cm.