Introducing our Bookstore of the Month; Livraria Lello. This bookstore, housed in an incredible neo-Gothic building, is an extraordinary literary mecca: a must if you find yourself in Porto.
Describe Livraria Lello in three words.
Sumptuous, majestic and longing.
Where is your favourite spot in the store?
That must be the stairway. It’s a really beautiful and imposing red stairway: a stairway to heaven.
Give us a brief history of Livraria Lello
The history of Livraria Lello is also the story of the brothers Lello who open the bookshop in 1906. José and António Lello came from the Douro Valley, where the port wine vineyards are located. José Lello, the eldest brother, was the first to move to Porto. A man of letters and a lover of literature, books and music, José had the ambition of becoming a bookseller. With his brother-in-law as business partner, José opened his first bookshop and publishing house in 1881. Upon the passing of José’s brother-in-law, José and his younger brother António joined to create their company, José Pinto de Sousa Lello & Irmão.
Around this time, the Lello brothers establish themselves on Rua do Almada, still not knowing that the building which would carry their name into the next millennium was just a few blocks away. Lello e Irmão’s (i.e., Lello and brother) publishing activity was characterized by a strong passion for books and culture. This enthusiasm for art originated special and limited editions, with important artists, such as illustrators and painters.
In 1894, José Lello buys Livraria Chardron and all its contents. Although, by that time, it was no longer owned by the French Ernesto Chardron, it was him who had made the bookshop’s name. One of the most influent men in publishing, Chardron had printed the first editions of several very important Portuguese writers at the tome, such as Eça de Queirós and Camilo Castelo Branco. The Lello brothers ambitious new venture needed headquarters to match its strengthened position and importance in the business. The building, located on Rua das Carmelitas, was then shaped by the sumptuous imagination of the engineer Francisco Xavier Esteves. In 1906, it was opened to the city, just as we know it today – and the sensation it caused at the time continues to be felt nowadays, for it remains a symbol of Porto for all those who visit it.
Open since 1906, Livraria Lello has housed men of arts and letters, has been the inspiration for acclaimed authors, a place for social gatherings, performances and a serene library for many of Porto’s avid readers.
Do you have a store pet?
For a long time, we’ve been considering the owl. The owl is emblematic of a deep connection with wisdom and knowledge, as we see the art of literature. Also, the owl is an important character in Harry Potter books and, as many people say, Livraria Lello was a great influence in the work of the author J.K. Rowling when writing the famous saga.
Do you have a favourite author? If yes, who is it?
As one of the booksellers of the Livraria Lello that’s a difficult question. To all of us who love books, it’s awkward to elect a favourite one, books are emotions, and like emotions some days one fit’s other days the same one doesn’t, but in the end, it tells us who we are.
One of my favourite author is António Lobo Antunes. He is a Portuguese writer and psychiatric. His first book to be published was Memória de Elefante (Elephant’s Memory) in 1979, it became a huge success. Since then he published approximately thirty books. However, we can never forget Fernando Pessoa and his stately work, where you can be sure to find unforgettable thoughts, words, emotions and stories. Nonetheless, I must mention José Saramago, a tremendous work, where the art of literature finds itself. As you can see, it is very difficult to elect one, and I stop now, because I could go on and on…
What is your favourite opening line from a book?
As one of the booksellers of the Livraria Lello one of my favourite opening line from a book is No dia seguinte ninguém morreu. (In the following day, nobody died) in Intermitências da Morte (Death with Interruptions), José Saramago, 2005.
What was the last book you read?
As one of the booksellers of the Livraria Lello I never read one book at time, I’m always reading three or more… The last three I was reading were, The Master and Margarita by Mikhail Bulgakov, Rebuçados Venezianos by Maria Filomena Molder and Mason & Dixon by Thomas Pynchon.
What is your favourite A&CB book?
What is your favourite book?
As Frank Zappa said “So many books, so little time”… There are so many great books that I’ve read, and there are a lot more that I want to read. As one of the booksellers of the Livraria Lello, I would choose: Sound and Fury by William Faulkner; The Book of Disquiet by Fernando Pessoa; Seeing by José Saramago; The Land at the End of the World by António Lobo Antunes; The Karamazov Brothers by Fyodor Dostoyevsky, and so on.
I don’t have a “favourite book”, like there isn’t a favourite love, what we have is different types of love… The whole is greater than the sum of the parts.
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R. das Carmelitas 144
Monday to Friday: 10am – 7.30pm
Saturday and Sunday: 10am – 7pm