Bookshelf of the Week: Brattle Book Shop, Boston

If you managed to catch my Honesty Bookshop, Hay on Wye feature on Bookshelf of the Week a few weeks, or the more recently featured bookshelf stuck to the front of an apartment block in Tallinn, Estonia, you’d know I’m drawn towards shots of books stored outside in the open. It’s something that both compels and horrifies me at the same time mainly because it’s taking books out of their ‘comfort zone’, to a place where they really shouldn’t be. Well, keeping on that same external theme for this week’s Bookshelf of the Week (but thankfully a lot better protected from the elements), are the external bookshelves to be found at the Brattle Antiquarian Book Shop in Boston, as shown in this shot from Paco Seoane.

Impressively founded in 1825, the Brattle Book Shop claims to be one of the largest antiquarian bookstores in the country, with a stockholding of 250,000 titles. Carrying such a large number of books obviously means you need lots of space available for storage, and the ingenious Brattle store owners have addressed this need by taking a large chunk of their stock to the outside of the store, to a disused area against their side wall, on the empty lot adjoining the store. It’s full-time storage too with the bookcases being shuttered during out-of-hours.

I love these bookshelves. They’re a great use of dead space and they really adds to the store’s image (even more than that giant pencil above the entrance :o)). While I enjoy spending countless hours rummaging around cramped, musty book shops it’s nice to occasionally browse in a more open atmosphere, in the fresh air, and the Brattle Book Shop allows you to do this (especially when weather permitting they augment their external display with additional portable book carts). Just as much of a highlight for me though is the writer’s collage you can see on the billboard above the bookshelves. It adds another really nice bookish touch to what would normally be a very drab area.

Below are a couple more shots of the Brattle Book Shop (click through for the full-size images and photographer details etc.), and if that’s not enough for you, you’ll also find a page full of shots at the store’s official website too.

So who’s been to the Brattle Book Shop? How did you like it?

About Rob

Rob, a self-confessed bibliophile, is without any hope of rehabilitation. He gets unnaturally excited over anything book-shaped, and if book sniffing were a crime then he would have been locked up years ago (which wouldn't bother him in the slightest provided his cell was lined with books).


  1. What a great place! It did occur to me to wonder how they keep people from walking off with books, though. Maybe they post an employee outside? Look out, my cynicism is showing, lol.

    By the way, I love the Bookshelf of the Week feature, thanks for offering it!

  2. Another great bookshelf post. it makes me want to move to Boston.

  3. Rob (Twitter: robaroundbooks)

    Tammy – I think it’s a system based on absolute trust. I’d like to think that nobody would steal anything from these open-air bookshelves, but I’m probably wrong :o(

    Sandra – Thanks for the appreciation! Move to Boston? You and me both..although predictably New York would always be my first choice :o)