Stranded by books

The Strand is no ordinary bookshop. It is more a NYC destination where book lovers congregate, where you can peruse old and new papered treasures, find staff recommendations on a good read, wear something out of print, meet Kazuo Ishiguro or Peppa Pig, or simply breathe in history. This iconic cornerstone on Broadway and 12th has been flourishing for nearly 90 years, and as fast as new purchases pour out the front door, old books are recycled back through the side, ensuring that 18 miles of books will be a permanent, if not increasing, boast by the establishment.

A booklined stairwell connects the labyrinth of the basement to the busy fictional floor and then to the children’s and art books upstairs. Days could be dedicated to learning how to draw mustaches 20 different ways, to the seclusion of poet’s corner, to finding first and last editions, and to finding the perfect gift for the vampire or the troublemaker in your life. Something for everyone! And if you have a very special request, like finding a book that would originally have been read by candle-light, then the Strand has that too.

Above the physical flow of the bookshop and accessible only by elevator is the rare book collection. Here you find yourself in an austere atmosphere, surrounded by first editions and unique books that belong in caring hands. Like those of my guide, who had studied ancient religions and spoke in a hushed reverent voice about secret fore-edge paintings and the Gutenberg Press. One such relic from 1480 was behind glass in a sturdy vault standing protectively next to the store owners favorite book – which, at $45,000 will probably remain in his company forever. Binding one of the Limited Editions Club’s famous collaborations, James Joyce and Matisse were paired in the late 1930’s in an illustrated version of Ulysses. There were to be 1500 signed copies, but apparently when Matisse illustrated the book with inspiration drawn from Homer rather than Joyce, the Irishman stopped signing in disgust at 250 copies. Maybe Matisse was taking artistic license, or maybe he didn’t want to go downstairs and do his homework…

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4 Responses to Stranded by books

  1. Dallas says:

    So fantastic I can imagine how easy it is to get lost amongst such treasures.If you have not seen
    Advice to Little Girls Mark Twain 1865 when he was thirty and recently republished, it is adorable with sweet pictures. I do recommend a search for it.( Amazon has it) Hopefully it is in the Strand!
    Mud Pies and Other Recipes takes my eye. Gabrielle thank you once again for interesting information love to you

    • Thank you Dallas – I will look for the advice of Mark Twain and yes, I am sure it will be in The Strand. You know I went there for years without knowing about the rare book collection. There is always a treasure waiting to be discovered…! X

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