We’ll get to my favourite bookshop in Lisbon, Livraria Sà da Costa, in a minute.
First, a word on Portuguese secondhand and antiquarian bookshops in general (called albufarristas in Portuguese) — I’ve never seen so many! In both Lisbon and Porto, there seemed to be one everywhere I looked. I’ve previously written about my favourite albufarrista in Porto, Livraria Moreira da Costa.
I’ve since been informed by a Portuguese friend via Instagram that book publishing was an expensive undertaking in times past, and subject to heavy censorship for much of the 20th century while Portugal groaned under the Salazar dictatorship. As a result, most people could only afford to buy secondhand books. If anyone has another explanation, I’d love to hear from you in the comments below.
In any case, there’s a huge number of secondhand and antiquarian bookshops in Portugal’s capital. I went inside every one I came across. I was pleased to discover that most of them had substantial stock in English, French, and sometimes other European languages, too. Apart from Versailles Century-type titles, I was also on the lookout for books about Macau and East Timor/Timor Leste. As it turned out, there could have been nowhere better to look than Livraria Sà da Costa in the upmarket shopping district of Chiado.
The people in the photo above are peering at the display in the window, as well they might. I fell in love as soon as I saw it myself.
As the display suggests, non-book items are sold here, too, including ephemera, curiosities, and collectibles. If you look closely, you’ll see that a variety of languages is represented, which must be reassuring to foreign tourists.
When you step through the door, a bibliophile’s paradise appears.
I could sense on sight that I was going to find what I was looking for. It took a while to find the section on Portugal’s colonial empire, but the search was pleasurable. It turned out the books about Portugal’s Eastern possessions were on the left, just before the white archway leading to the backrooms. There was a substantial collection of books about Macau and Timor, but for budgetary reasons I had to make a judicious selection. I chose several works from this section, but ended up also buying a book that had been in the display window at the front: Notas Sôbre a Arte Chinesa (Notes on Chinese Art), by the early twentieth century collector J.V. Jorge, which is at top right in the photo below.
I returned several times during my two weeks in Lisbon, and naturally bought more books. Together with tomes purchased from other alfubarristas, I ended up shipping 17kg of books back to Ontario in addition to the ones I schlepped in my luggage. I did resist the temptation to fork over several thousand euros for a 19th century painted view of Macau, although I still think of it wistfully.
Although I didn’t end up buying any Versailles Century titles other than those relating to Macau and Timor, I assure you that books about our favourite period are there. I highly recommend a visit to Livraria Sà da Costa for all Versailles Century (1682-1789) aficionados. For details of the store’s location and hours, visit their eponymous Facebook page. While you’re at it, please ‘like’ and follow the Versailles Century Facebook page, too!