Librairie Sans Titre, Paris. An independent-publishers and artists’ hunter

Finding the spot was a chance event for Mathilde de Galbert, who discovered what she says «looked like a bookshop», while cycling around the neighborhood, one Sunday morning

Librairie Sans Titre in Paris

Nestled in the eleventh arrondissement, across the street from the République station, Librairie Sans Titre, positioned at 2 Rue Auguste Barbie, has found itself a home in the district of Paris. An art and photography aficionado, Mathilde de Galbert dabbled in a number of activities before she became a bookseller. She grew up in an environment laced with exposure to art. «My mother is an artist and my father was an art collector and gallerist», says Galbert. The performing arts fascinated her. Therefore, she developed an interest in contemporary-dance early on. Trained for fifteen years, she performed as a dancer at shows until the end of her teen years. At this point her interest started to divert as she found herself spinning vinyls on turntables.

Travelling around Europe, organizing music festivals with her friends, she worked as a techno DJ. «I realized I wanted to create testimonies of the misfits and people who attended these raves», says Galbert. The desire to document the lives and experiences of the rave-goers led to her exploring the world of photography. She engrossed herself in the study of the medium of photography and video while working as a musician. Then, in her mid-twenties she left for Switzerland to pursue her masters in an art school. Upon her return, Galbert had found her groove in contemporary-art photography and started creating photo books while working at bookstores in Paris, until she decided to open one.

The inception of Librairie Sans Titre

Mathilde de Galbert founded Librairie Sans Titre in the fall of 2019 in Paris. The bookstore, established to defend independent-publishers and artists by offering books on contemporary-art, photography, graphic design, illustrations, comics, graphic novels, essays as well as fanzines. «Being curatorial spaces, art bookshops are not approachable. The idea was to have that which everyone could walk into, without the fear of not knowing the artists. You don’t have to be an art connoisseur to be at my store», says the thirty-one-year-old art books curator.

Librairie Sans Titre was launched as a pop-up store at the Voltaire Project. A concept initiated by Emerige, a construction company, that transformed an industrial-factory of thirty-six-hundred-meter-square into a space for artistic production and exhibitions. As an extension of its action, it offered artists the space for creation and collaboration in sites before their rehabilitation. «The head of Emerige’s art department was heading Maison Rouge, an art foundation. I had the opportunity to work at the bookstore at the Maison Rouge, and it was through this encounter that I was able to participate in the Voltaire project», says Galbert.

Librairie Sans Titre’s inauguration as a make-shift art bookshop, positioned amidst an ecosystem of artists, helped it garner visibility from the onset of its operations. «The experience was formative, being a brand-new space, it was a way to test out the project», says Galbert. The pop-up, which was scheduled till the winter of 2020, had to end in July. «With the pandemic’s arrival, we modified the program. Events did not take place, and we had to leave».

Librarie Sans Titre

Lampoon review: Librairie Sans Titre’s location

Finding the spot was a chance event for Galbert, who discovered what she says «looked like a bookshop», while cycling around the neighborhood, one Sunday morning. In the absence of signage, it was a task for her to locate the owners. Weeks of stalking the address and speed-dialing the brokers on her list culminated into her signing the lease. «I was determined», says Galbert. Shops of graphic designers, architects, artists, photographers, printers, museums as well as art galleries populate the eleventh arrondissement. «I wanted to find a place close to our pop-up shop in order to retain the relationships we had created with our customers. We are in the middle of the art scene here. It is centrally-located next to a subway station which connects you to the rest of the city. Bookshops at every corner», says Galbert.

She roped in Myléne Mozaz, branding professional, and Charlotte Castaing, graphic designer, to take forward the marketing and identity works for the store’s reincarnation. «The idea was to create a synergy between the two. They worked together for months brainstorming ideas and argued over decisions. Such debates are healthy for project development», says Galbert. Castaing, who is Galbert’s first cousin, now works at the bookstore assisting her. She designs the brand’s collaterals apart from curating the graphic novels section. «Charlotte and I are the same age and have grown up together. She wanted to work in the shop. Therefore, I trained her on how to sell books and arrange the display», says Galbert. While Charlotte spends two days of the week at the store, Galbert’s presence can be found at all-times.

Librairie Sans Titre’s design and books selection

Adorned with a pastel-blue facade and yellow signage, the bookstore, spread across sixty-square-meters, re-opened its doors to the public in December 2020, post a four-month halt. The logo of the store suggests the action of writing on a word document, while the yellow is its highlighter. The collaterals and stationery at the store are yellow. ‘Sans Titre’ is translated to ‘Untitled Books’. «We developed this identity taking into consideration when you open a new-folder on the computer, the name untitled appears i.e., sans titre in French. Our communication and design represent a new-chapter», says Galbert. Books are arranged according to sections – art, graphic design, photography, countercultures, artist biographies, illustrations, photo books, magazines and fanzines – ordered alphabetically. The new-releases are on the tables in front of the shelves, refreshed on the regular.

The bookstore houses a stash of over three-thousand titles from France and elsewhere. Being home to rare-books from independent-publications, Librairie Sans Titre brings out the hidden-talents of publishing. «I hunt in places which are not frequented. The genres overlap due to the categories», says Galbert. When it comes to selecting books for the store, she takes into consideration the customer feedback, with which she infuses her preferences. «I don’t appreciate every book that I have in my store. We keep indie books, but cannot disregard the timeless-titles and artists since we specialize in art books. We maintain a balance of books by veteran-artists and self-published titles», says Galbert.

Highlighting the difference between the two publishing formats, she added «the problem with mainstream-publishing is that there are heaps of books being published every day, the subject can tend to get lost. With self-publishing where the artists make ten copies – you get in-depth information about the subject. They have an identity as compared to publishing companies that have no personality», says Galbert.

Photography books at Librairie Sans Titre

Trained in photography, Galbert has an eye for tracing under-the-radar art and photography books. «When you are unknown in the market, you have to go and talk to publishers and artists to keep their books. As a DJ, I was into music labels and I would dig-deep to find the musicians of a label I was in search of. With books, you appreciate one book and learn of the publisher, and then discover his works with other publishers. It’s a grapevine network. Now that we have gained a following, people contact us by walking into our shop or sending us a message», says Galbert.

Part of her work involves interacting with a spectrum of people from the creative-field that have inspired her over the years. She follows the works of photographer Rebekka Deubner and Le Rayon Vert. Fanzines by Editions Nuit Noire have caught her attention, with the likes of photographers Hugo Weber, Adrien Vautier and Adnan Farzat in its portfolio. In illustrations and comics, she has a fondness for the creations of Sammy Stein, Baptiste Virot and Raphaelle Macaron, who is a part of Samandal Comics, a non-profit organization dedicated to the advancement of the art of comics in Lebanon, and the rest of the world.

Publishers of her choice include: Void (Greece), The Ice Plant (US), Chose Commune (France), RM éditorial (Spain/Mexico), Anthology (UK), Skinnerboox (Italy). «As for the design objects, I discovered a studio in Taipei called ‘Superadd’», says Galbert. Further, sustainability at a bookstore comes with a share of complications, and remains a concern for Galbert. Due to the cost of publishing in France, the books at the store arrive from eastern Europe, where printing facilities remain economical. The bookstore receives travelling shipments of books that come wrapped in plastic. Recycling books in Europe is not a norm. Due to the presence of ink, glue and plastic present in the books, recycling becomes a non-feasible proposition. «If they don’t sell, at some point, they are burnt».

Future development at Librairie Sans Titre

Apart from the completion of its pop-up store, the pandemic has affected Librairie Sans Titre in its day-to-day operations, «We did a book launch last week, but I wouldn’t recommend holding events at a time such as this. The government has put a night curfew. People have to visit in the middle of a working day if they want to attend», says Galbert. In hindsight, due to the lockdown, the brand has garnered support as the patron’s order books by reaching out on them on social media.

Looking to host art exhibitions at her venue, she says «I have started to publish books. I’m working on fanzines with artists in the field of photography». While registering the company with the government, she booked names for a bookshop and publishing house. «I want to be in a position to publish books in the future while someone else handles my bookstore», says Galbert.

Librairie Sans Titre

2 Rue Auguste Barbier, Paris, France

Librairie Sans Titre is a bookshop in Paris. It offers volumes on contemporary-art, photography, graphic design, illustrations, comics, graphic novels, essays as well as fanzines.

Chetna Chopra

The writer does not work for, consult, own shares in or receive funding from any company or organization that would benefit from this article.