The Strand is a New York institution, and one of my new favourite places. It has more books than most libraries I’ve been in, not to mention a rare books room I didn’t even have the temerity to enter.
The majority are used: there’s something beautiful about second-hand books, with love letters scribbled on the inside cover pages and page corners turned so often they’re about to fall off. The layout of the shop is wonderful too, no chairs, no space, books stacked in a semblance of order on every inch of shelving and a hundred carts dotted around the floor.
One oddity The Strand offer that I’ve never seen before is books by the foot, for rental or sale. The former is entirely reasonable: film sets, stage shows, there are plenty of reasons to want to temporarily line the walls with a beautiful array of leather-bound classics. But, anyone who actually fills their home library in this manner needs shooting.
A foot of books is quite an easy thing to picture, but a mile of them starts to strain the imagination. Nevertheless, the folks at The Strand kindly volunteer the information that their stock equates to 18 miles of books, in store, at any given time. To put that into perspective, this is enough to line every inch of the route from Farnborough Industrial Estate to Slough. Presuming none get stolen along the way, that is. I’m assuming that local illiteracy will win out over the regional predilection for crime.
One of the things I picked up was F. Scott Fitzgerald’s short stories, to enhance my American education. Apparently they all read him at school over here. I can see why.