Field Trip :: Ars Libri

By Rand Lemley, B.Arch Candidate

Tucked into an old warehouse at 500 Harrison Avenue in the South End, you can find a treasure trove of rare and collectible books on art and architecture. In fact,
Ars Libri has the largest collection of rare and out-of-print books in America.

The bookstore has been around since 1976 and has a reputation for being the place to start your search for anything related to the arts. There’s even a connection to the BAC: Elmar Seibel, the founder of the bookstore, had his first job in Boston appraising the BAC's Memorial Library.

The amount of books inside is jaw-dropping. Wooden shelves packed with books seem to stretch to infinity. The categories range from Art Nouveau to ancient, and every region of the world is well-represented with tomes in the local language and English. It is like shopping from a museum mixed with a library and antique shop.

As I browsed the stacks, I tried to pick out some books that caught my fancy. I certainly did not have the time to peruse each title, so these are just random picks that looked interesting. And yes, I did judge many of these books by their cover.

This German book’s cover caught me right away. Then the cool script inside drew me further in. ($25)

This Encyclopedia of English Furniture has all kinds of fun stuff inside. The wide range of chairs, tables, armoires, etc. showcase a care and craftsmanship not seen often in our era. ($50) 

If you think Chinese calligraphy looks beautiful on its own, these woodcuts should be even more exciting for you. ($35)

Finally, something architectural! This book is full of dynamic graphite, charcoal, and watercolor renderings. ($35)

And the most awesome book I found, this collection FLW drawings that have been faithfully copied onto cotton watercolor paper. The range of drawings and layers of information in each is stunning. Unfortunately, I don’t have the cash to shell out for this one. ($1,000)

If you’re looking for some inspiration or a way to spend an hour -- or more -- Ars Libri is a great place to check out. Just make sure to keep your wallet in check because these books are quite enticing.