Dear Matthew of Montchalin,

“A book that appears is a living thing that grows and is born (…) this thing needs places where it can be agitated, unfolded in the open and in all its aspects (…) and which place is more favorable to this object than this one--where a passerby comes to give him the rare and solemn honor of preferring her over money?"

It is in these terms that Paul Claudel describes his favorite bookstore, rue Odéon, to better emphasize the essential role of booksellers and bookstores. A role you hold very well and that your career exemplifies.

Your passion for books is a family affair. Son and grandson of a bookseller, you decide, after studying business in Lille, to follow the family tradition. A tradition that began in Chartes in the middle of the last century when, in 1946, your grandfather Jean Legué created the Legué bookstore, which your father took over in 1971.

It is within the Key booksellers' group that you make your first weapons. With, already firmly anchored in your mind, the idea that the profession of bookseller is based on a collective and solidarity approach. You take the lead of the magazine «Pages des Libraires» which becomes a reference for the independent bookstore.

You then aspire to write your own page in the history of the bookstore. Following in the footsteps of your grandfather and your father, in 1996, you decided to take over the bookstore L'Armitière in Rouen. In 15 years, you have made it one of the most dynamic and important French bookstores. With more than 80,000 titles and thirty booksellers, it is at the heart of the city’s dynamic and contributes to the cultural development of the region. After the opening of the youth bookstore, a reference in the field, and the installation on the concession of the bookstore of the Musée des Beaux Arts de Rouen, the institution with the sweet name «art and friendship» successfully celebrates its 50th anniversary in 2012.

Very early on, you also became aware that the profession of bookseller, if it is a profession of passion, is also a fragile profession and is based on a subtle ecosystem increasingly upset by the changes of the modern world, especially digital. Committed to preserving the cultural and economic model of the bookshop, you decide to engage in collective action within the Syndicat de la librairie française (SLF).

It is primarily the provision of textbooks by the regional councils that mobilizes you. You are defending the idea of a virtuous mechanism that, through the distribution of cards or cheque books, would make it possible to give back their full place to local bookstores and encourage the youngest to attend them. You are then at the heart of the negotiations of the new Bookshop Collective Agreement signed in March 2011, which marks a significant advance for the profession.

Because they recognized in you a bookseller of convictions, always ready to defend the interests of the profession, your peers elect you president of the Syndicat de la librairie française in September 2011.

In June 2012, when I decided to launch a broad reflection on the future of the bookstore, you put all your energy into debates to defend the place and role of bookstores in our cities and in our lives, in our territories and in our neighbourhoods. While establishing a lively and nourished dialogue with your counterpart in the publishing industry, you have been able to defend the collective spirit between business partners, essential to the sustainability of the entire book industry. Under the aegis of the Ministry and after the announcements I was able to make last March at the Salon du livre de Paris in favour of the bookstore, the unprecedented commitments made by the publishers in favour of the bookstore show how much your word has been heard. I have no doubt that booksellers will not be insensitive to this gesture of solidarity in favour of your entire profession.

It is also to you that we owe the recent success of the second edition of the Rencontres nationales de la librairie de Bordeaux. By mobilizing 700 book professionals over two days, including more than 550 independent booksellers, they have made it possible to collectively consider the future of bookstores. So that they continue to be, as Jacques Prévert so aptly put it, “a fairground, the backstage of a theatre, a museum of wax and dreams (…), a station hall, a waiting and departure room where meet very unusual travellers”.

Because like the independent bookstore, you are a professional turned towards others, engaged in collective projects and a logic of solidarity to build the future, Because you are a major player in an interprofessional industry that many envy the book sector, it is for me a great pride to pay tribute to you today.

Dear Matthew of Montchalin, on behalf of the President of the Republic, and by virtue of the powers vested in us, we make you a knight of the Legion of Honour.