The Strand

Art & Culture | History

A Literary Institution - Our Favorite Seller of Art Books, Rare Books, Used Books and Bibliophile Gifts

Strand Bookstore East Village Rare Books

About The Strand

 & why it made the Carpe City list

  • With more than “18 miles of books,” and 2.5 million volumes, you can find anything (and anyone!) at this 92-year-old New York institution.
  • The Strand is the largest used bookstore in the world, but when it opened in 1927, it was just a small stall on 4th Avenue’s Book Row.
  • On 4th Avenue between 8th and 14th Streets, Book Row totaled a whopping 48 bookstores!
  • And the booksellers were competitive folks. When the Strand moved to its present location on 12th Street and Broadway in 1957, competitors on 4th Avenue refused to tell customers its new address.
  • Strand staffers are all certified book lovers – they have to take a special test!
    • All would-be employees have to match 10 authors to 10 books (and contend with a trick question).
    • Since the staff are so knowledgeable, they can recommend great books you had no idea you wanted to read – and fabulous, quirky displays like “anti-beach reads” are an offbeat way to beat the heat!
  • Still can’t find what you’re looking for? Try the other floor(s)!
    • We recommend the cozy chairs in the rare books room on the 3rd floor, where you can also find a 1st edition of Ulysses signed by James Joyce and illustrated by Henri Matisse, all yours for only $45,000. On a budget? You’ll find plenty of gems in the $2 racks outside on Broadway!
  • You won’t be the only one browsing. The Strand has always been a hub for writers and celebrities.
    • Saul Bellow was a valued customer, and Susan Sontag was a regular.
    • Patti Smith worked in the basement, and Luc Sante worked in the fiction section.
  • Scenes from shows like Sex and the City and Master of None have been filmed at the Strand.
  • The Bass family, which has owned the store since it was founded, knows the Strand is an NYC treasure, but they don’t want it landmarked.
    • In December 2018, the Landmarks Preservation Commission held a hearing for and against making the Strand an official NYC landmark.
    • Owner Nancy Bass Wyden argued that its preservation would imperil the Strand, arguing that the restrictions and regulations that come with a landmark designation would make maintenance costs prohibitively expensive and ultimately destroy the business the landmark designation would be trying to protect.
    • Writers like Fran Lebowitz and Art Spiegelman spoke out on the side of the Strand.
Strand 1938
The Strand Bookstore 1938

Carpe City Trivia

The Strand might be a New York institution, but the name comes from London.

Ben Bass named his shop Strand Books after the London street where avant-garde writers like Thackeray, Dickens, and Mill once congregated.

You can "buy books by the foot!"

If you were wondering why The Strand measures its inventory in miles, here’s the deal: the store works with a host of television, theater and film producers to supply books for movie, TV and stage sets. In those cases, the producers order collections of books by the foot.

What if you want books by the foot, but you don’t have your own production company? Have no fear! The Strand does a significant business curating private libraries. The store will deliver collections of books based on your favorite genres or personal interests.

You can even order books by the foot in your favorite colors. Clients in the Hamptons are known to order all-white books by the foot because the crisp covers look cool in their beach houses

By: Lucie Levine

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