Cost: $1.50 – $50,000.
The cost explained: The low end of this cheap used bookstore tour is to cover the cost of riding the T. The high end is if you happen to drop into James & Devon Gray Booksellers and decide to buy that two volume set by Saint Bonaventure (see below). Seriously, you can have a great time walking around a part of Cambridge that surrounds Harvard Square just looking into used bookstores and not buy a book. You will perhaps need to eat somewhere but there are lots of places to eat in and around Harvard Square. Yet you can eat frugal or fancy, depending on how cheap you want to keep your walking shopping tour.
The Outing: If you are staying somewhere in Boston and have ready access to the T, hop on the red line and take a trip to Harvard Square. There is plenty to see and do here. Some of the nicest outings are simply strolling around to see the many sites that are within a few minutes of the exit from the subway.
One thing that book aficionados might like to do here is to walk from bookstore to bookstore. Even if you are hooked on your ebook reader, you can still have a lot of fun going to see the stacks of quaint books filling those antiquated bricks-and-mortar shops. While there are plenty of stores that feature new books you can also peruse the used book stores too. This is, to me, the real book shopping adventure in Cambridge. Most shops have one or more specialties, and these tastes run the gamut from cheap paperbacks to rare treasures. There is no doubt the used book trade hear is augmented by the concentration of institutions of higher learning that Cambridge is famous for, including Harvard University. Let’s run through a quick overview of a few interesting used book purveyors:
Harvard Book Store
1256 Massachusetts Ave., Cambridge
Harvard Book Store is open every day but Thanksgiving and Christmas.
This name is a little confusing as there is the Harvard Bookstore and then there are the Harvard University Bookstores, called The COOP, that are littered about Harvard Square. In the place we want to visit to find used books, there is an upstairs and downstairs. The down-the-stairs end of things is where you can find the used books. The store has a lot of used paperbacks. If you are looking for a book by a popular author or any recent bestseller, you will likely find a copy here.
James & Devon Gray Booksellers
12 Arrow St., Cambridge
Closed Monday and Tuesday
Need a copy of the 1495 thriller “Egregium opus subtilitate et deuoto exercitio precellens paruoru[m] opusculoru[m]. doctoris seraphici sancti Bonauenture. Prima pars.” and “Egregium opus subtilitate et deuoto exercitio precellens paruoru[m] opusculoru[m] doctoris seraphici sancti Bon. ” by Saint Bonaventure? (Of course you do know the date makes these volume four, right?). No problem. Gray Bookseller’s has a copy on hand and it is only $50,000.
One section of their website begins with this: We are lovers of history and printing. We search the world for early printed books. Later in this same passage you learn: Because our speciality limits us to books from before 1700 in all fields, everything you will find at our shop is at least 300 years old. That’s right, all their books are date from before the 1700’s. How cool is that? Even nicer is the fact that they have a store and are happy to have folks come in and look around.
This should get you started. There are others listed here on the map that you can get from the link that is soon coming your way. You should be aware that some have closed their doors. The book business has gotten very tough. Here is a workable but not true to scale, printable PDF map showing the location of the local used bookstores.