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The bouquinistes come from the French term "bouquin", which colloquially means book. They are old second-hand booksellers that are present on many banks of the Seine River. Today it is estimated about 900 positions with more than 300,000 books.

During the French Revolution, they make a fortune and Napoleon Bonaparte formally recognizes them by giving them a statute. In 1930 the dimensions and characteristics of the green boxes are fixed.
Bouquinistes must pay a concession right and then do not pay taxes or leases. They can occupy 8 meters each, placing up to 4 boxes. The places have to be exploited at least 4 days a week except for bad weather.

In 2009 the mayor of Paris gives a warning because many of them sold only tourist objects, while the regulation authorizes only a box of 4 and the rest have to be books and magazines.

Since 2011 they are a World Heritage Site by UNESCO.