Words and Illustration by Haley Houseman.
If you’re looking to fall down the rabbit hole of beatified vintage volumes, Boston’s oldest bookstore Brattle Book Shop will keep you enthralled for hours. They specialize in lovely pre-loved books, especially classic editions and first editions. Not pandering to the casual consumer of paperback fiction, prepared to be dazzled by floors of gilt spines and long forgotten hard covers that never graced a best-seller list (and perhaps are all the better for it). One of America’s oldest bookshops—the Brattle Book Shop been in operation since 1825—it is located in the heart of downtown Boston, just steps away from other must-visit attractions, including the Boston Common and the Boston Opera House.
Reasonably priced and often gorgeous, book lovers will be tempted to purchase a tall stack of well-worn books that will feel as good in hand as on a bookshelf. You probably won’t be able to find something specific, but it never hurts to ask the booksellers, who are knowledgeable but brusque in that stereotypical Boston fashion. They do not have any qualms about letting you browse for hours, nor carrying around stacks of thing you can’t afford. Just be gentle with the spines and respectful of other patrons.
If the weather is right, one of the most unique qualities of Brattle Book Shop will stop you before you reach the door. Lining the walls of the empty lot next door are shelves of books, which are covered when the store is closed or in inclement weather. But it takes more than a drizzle to get them to cover up, so never fear: a few puddles won’t keep you from the immense selection out of doors. Find everything from semi-dated coffee table books to gorgeous classics that look like props from a Wes Anderson movie. Lose yourself in nature tomes from the 1800’s and faded guides to palmistry. If you are denied the pleasure of open air browsing, there are still multiple floors indoors.
Inside, the Brattle Book Shop has two floors of general used books, one floor reserved for rare books and antiques. If you’ve got too many used books on your house and want to sell something really special, Brattle buys as well as sells the good stuff. An experienced buyer is available from 9:00 am-5:00 pm. They also sell and buy everything from whole libraries to single volumes.
The shop has a twitter account and Facebook page you can follow for updates on their new arrivals, bookstore events, and local happenings. It’s the perfect place to stop in and browse; what you find will always surprise and thrill you. It can be a dangerous place to be for a book lover, with hard covers so reasonably priced. Be wary and come with a budget, or you may wonder out with a stack of first editions and no money for rent.
Brattle Book Shop
9 West St