The recent death of Armen Samuelian, co-owner of Librairie Orientale in Paris, marks the end of an era. In addition to its substantial holdings, the LO was cultural landmark, exilic gathering place, and community-builder for the generation of Armenian survivors of the Ottoman genocide against the Armenians of the empire. For decades after its establishment, the LO held a prestigious presence in the scholarly life of Paris, and for those thousands of visitors to the Parisian capital for whom the LO was a mandatory stop.
The Librairie Orientale was for the generations.
On my last day in Paris, a gentle drizzle in the air, we make our way to Librairie Orientale Hrant Samuelian, to meet up with two other friends. “Let’s meet at Samuelian,” we’ve told each other. The four of us–an Armenian friend originally from Beirut who lives in Paris; another friend originally from Istanbul who also lives in Paris; and a French woman whose ancestry is Russian, and whose family includes prominent Orientalists, the four of us–brought together today by a visit to the Librairie Orientale.
It’s always like this with Librairie Orientale, the visit itself larger than the actual walk up Monsieur Le Prince to the bookstore, narrow, with an unassuming, almost self-effacing exterior. This time, I am here at the request of a friend from Los Angeles who wants the two-volume fascimile edition of the first Armenian periodical published in Madras, India, between 1794-96, and reissued in 1970…
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