When it comes to bookstores, book sales are usually what keeps the places going. But sometimes it’s the bookstore itself that is the attraction.
Having ended 2017 with a mention of the world’s biggest bookstore, in Iran –
I was pondering an occasional TNPS series on the world’s most beautiful and bizarre bookstores for 2018, and was beginning to juggle my options when Clarin this week ran a short post on what it regarded as noteworthy book emporia.
Top of Clarin’s list and mine, is Portugal’s Livraria Lello, famous for its neo-Manueline architecture, but even more famous for being the inspiration behind Hogwarts and Flourish & Botts, the Diagon Alley bookstore where young wizards buy their textbooks.
Check out a 360-degree tour here.
Livraria Lello, in Porto, is over one hundred years old. The building that is. The bookstore firm predates that, having been founded in 1869, but the current building was erected only in 1906.
It’s just up the road from the Café Majestic, where legend has it JK Rowling wrote the first tentative words of what would eventually become the Harry Potter series.
Rowling worked as an ESL teacher in Portugal’s second city, Porto, between 1991 and 1993, returning to Scotland with two newborns – a daughter and first draft of at least some chapters of Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone.
There are some who doubt the credibility of these legends, suggesting Café Majestic would not have been within Rowling’s budget, and noting that the supposed similarities between Livaria Lello and Hogwarts are perhaps more imagined than real.
But be it legend, urban myth, or reality, Harry Potter fans flock to Livraria Lello in their thousands.
3,000 a day pay up to four euros to gain entrance to the store. The fee is refundable from the price of any books actually bought there, and of course Harry Potter books sell in big numbers.
The entrance fee is not so much to milk tourists as to keep the store from becoming even more overrun by visitors, the sheer volume of which make browsing difficult for regular book buyers.