Although there’s no password to get in, Brazenhead Books is the speakeasy of bookstores. The shop, hidden in an undisclosed apartment on New York’s Upper East Side, is stacked floor to ceiling with volumes by some of the book world’s best known—Arthur Miller and Anton Chekhov, Dorothy Parker and Jack London, Pierre Louys and Anthony Trollope (as well as a bottle or two of Woodford Reserve). But, because the shop is in a residence, it’s not legal and is, therefore, on the down low.
In the 1970s, proprietor Michael Seidenberg ran a law-abiding used bookstore, but when rent quadrupled, writes The Paris Review, the already-struggling shop closed. Seidenberg says, “When people say ‘Did Barnes and Noble put you out?’” he replies, “No, no—real estate put me out.” The substantial inventory moved to his nearby apartment and Brazenhead Books soon opened its doors—to anyone who could find it.
When asked how clandestine the bookstore really is, Seidenberg quips, “Here’s the funny thing . . . my name is known, and my name is in the phone book, and anyone can call me, but of course in this age of super intelligence, no one has a phone book. I always thought that was pretty shocking—that I was hiding in plain sight.”
Don’t miss this charming three-minute mini-documentary on Etsy, in which filmmaker Andrew David Watson takes us into the secret sphere of Brazenhead. If you’re a devotee of a good book and a good pipe, you may never want to leave:
Sources: Etsy, The Paris Review