A “fiercely independent” bookstore, the Strand in New York, is a fun, off-beat, off-price place to find that unique gift.
The “largest, cheapest secondhand-book store in town”, says “New York” Magazine’s shopping guide.
But that omits Strand’s fun factor, and the fact that its 2.5 million books include thousands of new titles at half off the cover price, and “front list” books direct from publishers at a 20 percent or more discount.
And here’s the rarest find: Strand’s rare book collection on its 3rd floor is larger than most entire stores that sell rare books. The collection has first and signed editions of modern books, lots of hard-to-find art and photography books, and collectibles.
Aptly at the rare book collection, this Twain quote is posted: “Great books are weighed and measured by their style and matter, and not the trimmings and shadings of their grammar.” (Twain’s speech at the 1887 annual reunion of the Army and Navy Club of Connecticut.)
Here are a few great rare offerings with style, matter, plus trimmings, shadings…:
- Stephen King’s “Under the Dome: A Novel”. King’s signature – and trading cards – are included in this limited collector’s edition, which is sealed in a publisher’s box. Yours for a mere $250.
- Shakespeare’s bawdy, anybody? “Shakespeare Jest-Books: Reprints of the Early And Very Rare Jest-Books Supposed to Have Been Used By Shakespeare” by W. Carew Hazlitt, publisher Willis & Sotheran ©1864, also for $250.
- “Winnie-the-Pooh”, perhaps? by A.A. Milne; (Illustrator) Ernest H. Shepard, publisher E.P. Dutton & Company, ©1926, for $750.
- “An American Life” by Ronald Reagan. Signed by Reagan, it’s one of 2,000 copies, packaged with six cassettes of his speeches, in a fine oak box by Easton Press ©1990. It just sold for $2,500, probably a gift for someone celebrating the Republican mid-term victories.
Too pricey? Try novelty items.
I bought retro 1950s luggage tags emblazoned with, “We all have our baggage” – less’n $9. Pocket calendars with illustrations of antiquarian books, less’n $5. Plus greatly discounted, exquisite art books.
Also affordable are Strand tote bags, which make a literary, artistic, and fashion statement. Some of the 30 styles ($13 or so) were designed by artists including David Hockney, Art Spiegelman, and “New Yorker” cartoonist Seth. A Japanese financial newspaper, Nikkei, once listed Strand tote bags as the number one souvenir to bring home to Japan. Within a month, the tote bag sales tripled.
The almost 85-year-old store has been family-owned ever since Ben Bass opened it in 1927, with $600 and his personal book collection.
These days, Ben’s son Fred and Fred’s daughter Nancy Bass Wyden — married to Senator Ron Wyden (D-OR) — co-own the “fiercely independent” bookstore. It occupies 55,000 square feet, more than “18 miles of books”, as its slogan says.
When the store was a mere “8 miles of books” in the 1970s, columnist George F. Will wrote, “the eight miles worth saving in this city are at the corner of Broadway and 12th Street. They are the crammed shelves of the Strand Book Store.”
So, to save money and time during this holiday season, get stranded at Strand or at www.strandbooks.com. It’s a shop for all seasons.
For more info: Strand Book Store, www.strandbooks.com, 828 Broadway at 12th Street, NY, NY. Author events, www.strandbooks.com/app/www/p/calendar/ — on 12/2, Tim and Nina Zagat celebrated the release of their “Zagat’s 2011 New York City Restaurant Guide”.