Unsung story: Harry Potter and the 113-year-old bookstore
A tale of real-life magic
LIFESTYLE Harry Potter
In a story that extends far beyond the modern tales of witchcraft and wizardry, a tale of a bookstore in the north of Portugal remains a source of magic.
Situated in the center of Porto, the bookshop Lello e Irmão has housed more than 60,000 works for exactly 113 years, as of January 13, 2019. But while an institution behind such a sure and longstanding Gothic facade might seem immovable, just four years earlier it was almost shut down.
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Often distinguished as one of the most beautiful bookstores in the world, Lello e Irmão was hit hard when people stopped coming in to buy books, and like many independent bookstore owners, they couldn't see a future for themselves. In 2015, the nine employees who were still working there believed they were going out of business
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So what magic has kept the store open all this time?
Just a swish and a flick from the wands of the most famous wizards! The story goes that in the 1990s, J.K. Rowling, author of the 'Harry Potter' saga and then-resident of Porto, was so deeply inspired by the building—with its beautiful architecture, and shelves brimming with books—that she couldn't help but use it to craft the atmosphere of her novels, which you can particularly notice in her intricate descriptions of twisting stairwells. Many also believe that she based the Hogwarts library off the bookstore!
As the starting point for an iconic series that almost single-handedly reinvigorated the spirit of children's literature—and most definitely took the world by storm—it makes sense that Potter fans of all ages and backgrounds would be willing to pay a bit of money to get a peek at the world behind the fantasy.
And thus began the revival of the Lello bookstore. Since Rowling's story came out, the establishment's attendance has skyrocketed: they receive some 4,000 visitors per day, and had a total of over one million visitors in 2018 alone—all of whom are paying five euros just to get inside. On top of that, the store sells about 1,200 books per day, though they now have 60 employees instead of just nine.
It turns out the 'Harry Potter' series reinvigorated the spirit of literature in more ways than one!
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