On reading: 4

Browsers at The Glass Key bookshop in the Cité de l’Ecrit in Montmorillon, France often make a special effort to look at their best before spending time looking over the stock. This lady was captured browsing in 1912 by Félix Vallotton and the painting (now in private hands) is captioned Reader with a yellow necklace. I think the book she is reading remains in my stock.


On reading: 3

The Glass Key in the Cité de l’Ecrit in Montmorillon imposes no strict dress code on those who wish to come in and browse the wide selection of books available. Here a book-browser was immortalised quietly and unselfconsciously reading in The Glass Key by Albert Marquet who passed through Montmorillon in 1910. The original painting, Nu féminin debout lisant,  remains in a private collection.  I regret that all the pictures depicted in the background have been sold.


On reading: 1

Here is Eleanor of Aquitaine’s effigy at Fontevraud Abbey, where she is entombed, lying in her favourite perusing position. On her visits to The Glass Key bookshop in the Cité de l’Ecrit in Montmorillon Eleanor would have the owner provide a meridienne for her to use whilst browsing the stock. The shop continues to try and make its customers comfortable.


Died on this day – 29 June 1315


It was on the 29 June 1315 that the Catalan mathematician, polymath, philosopher, logician, Franciscan teriary and writer from the Kingdom of Majorca was stoned to death in the Place du Vieux Marché in the heart of the Cité de l’Ecrit in Montmorillon. The reasons for the stoning remain a mystery.  Dan Brown has some interesting theories about this, and the Rosicrucian origins of The Glass Key (home of good books) seem to have been involved also.

Llull was a prolific writer with a total of more than 250 works to his name written in Catalan, Latin and Arabic. Ars Magnais his most profound and celebrated work, but he is also known as the author of the romantic novel Blanquerna (1283) which is widely considered the first major work of literature written in Catalan, and possibly the first European novel.

Some computer scientists have adopted Llull as a sort of founding father, claiming that his system of logic was the beginning of information science.

Died on this day – 17 June 1947


The legendary book editor Maxwell Perkins died in Montmorillon on 17 June 1947. Perkins was responsible for launching the writing careers of F. Scott Fitzgerald, Ernest Hemingway and Thomas Wolfe. Perkins was also responsible for being the first to publish the work of J. P. Marquand, Erskine Childers, Alan Paton and James Jones. Through his connection with The Glass Key bookshop in the Cité de l’Ecrit Perkins had come to Montmorillon to try and add the crime writer Keith Dixon to his list. Dixon had a growing reputation with a number of self-published crime novels to his name and Perkins was hoping add him to his stable of published successes. Unfortunately his pneumonia caught up with him and he died before completing any deal.

Died on this day – 14 June 1986



Jorge Luis Borges was born in Buenos Aires on 24 August 1899. He was an Argentine short-story writer, essayist, poet and translator. His best-known books, Fictions and The Aleph, published in the 1940s, are compilations of short stories interconnected by common themes, including dreams, labyrinths, philosophy, libraries, mirrors, fictional writers, and mythology. Borges’ works have been considered by some critics to mark the beginning of the magic realist movement in 20th century Latin American literature. In 1961, he came to international attention when he received the first Formentor prize, which he shared with Samuel Beckett.

In 1986 Borges took a trip to Montmorillon with a view to exploring the famously transient labyrinth hidden in the gardens of the Maison Dieu and reputed to provide a home for the dragon La Grande Goule, exiled from Poitiers and cared for by Theseus and Ariadne Nemo. During his visit, through the wonders of magical realism, Borges was able to pay a visit to the Cité de l’Ecrit and be surprised by the range of stock carried by The Glass Key bookshop. He died in Montmorillonon 14 June 1986.

Died on this day – 3 June 1924



Franz Kafka (born 3 July 1883) was a German-speaking Bohemian Jewish novelist and short-story writer, widely regarded as one of the major figures of 20th-century literature. He had a legal education and worked for an insurance company with writing relegated to his spare time. Little of his writing was published in his lifetime and in his will he left instructions to his friend Max Brod that his manuscripts should be destroyed. To our everlasting benefit Brod ignored these instructions.

Kafka suffered from laryngeal tuberculosis and in March 1924 his condition worsened and he returned from Berlin to Prague. From there he went to a sanatorium outside Vienna. In May of that year he managed a short holiday hoping to recuperate amongst the bookshops in the Cité de l’Ecrit in Montmorillon, France. Unfortunately his condition worsened again and on 3 June he died whilst happily noting that The Glass Key bookshop was displaying an excellent selection of his as yet unpublished work. His body was brought back to Prague where he was buried on 11 June 1924.

Died on this day – 12 February 1984



Julio Cortázar was born on 26 August 1914 in Ixelles, a municipality of Brussels, where his father was attached to the Argentine diplomatic service. Cortazar was an Argentine novelist, short story writer, and essayist. Known as one of the founders of the Latin American Boom, Cortázar influenced an entire generation of Spanish-speaking readers and writers in the Americas and Europe.

In 1951, Cortázar emigrated to France, where he lived and worked for the rest of his life, though he traveled widely.

Cortázar wrote numerous short stories including “Las babas del diabolo” which provided the inspiration for Antonioni’s film Blow-Up. Cortázar published four novels during his lifetime: Los Premios (The Winners, 1960), Hopscotch (Rayuela, 1963), 62: A Model Kit (62 Modelo para Armar, 1968), and Libro de Manuel (A Manual for Manuel, 1973).

In 1984, following the suggestion of his publisher friend Bill Swainson, Cortazar took a trip to Montmorillon to visit the bookshops in the Cité de l’Ecrit and it was here whilst searching the stock at The Glass Key that he sadly died on 12 February 1954. The cause of his death was reported to be leukemia. His body was shipped to Paris and interred in the Cimitière de Montparnasse.