Lauren Kim

Neeva Patel, Staff Writer

This summer, in an effort to get out of the house, I decided to explore some of the bookstores around me. While I had visited Barnes & Noble on 45th St. and 5th Ave. and the one near Union Square, I wanted to find something more unique. One day, I searched for bookstores on Google Maps and walked towards the closest one. I was under the impression that it would be a modern bookstore selling contemporary fiction books, but I was wrong.

When I arrived and peered up at the old six-story townhouse, I realized that it was antique and probably didn’t sell trendy books like “Malibu Rising” and “My Year of Rest and Relaxation” as I had wanted. The building was dark brown, slightly corroded, and displayed smudged windows on each floor. Regardless of its appearance, I decided to explore inside, unaware that I had just come across the oldest independent bookstore in all of New York: Argosy Book Store. 

Argosy was founded by Louis Cohen in 1925, who chose the name because it starts with the letter ‘A’ and would therefore be listed first in telephone books, increasing publicity. In recent years, the bookstore has been featured in the movie “The Goldfinch” (one of my favorite books) and the popular show “Law & Order.” Argosy isn’t solely a home to books — the store also sells antique prints, rare maps, and old autographs.

When I first went to Argosy, there was a sale for old paperback books ranging from $3 to $10. Curious customers eyed the inexpensive books sitting on a wooden shelf outside the store. As I entered the store, I was immediately drawn to the antique prints that sat in baskets next to the checkout counter. These prints consisted of fashion plates drawn by Pierre Balmain, Christian Dior, and Hubert de Givenchy. The history evident in the prints was fascinating to explore and an enjoyable activity for anyone who loves to discover and analyze old art and clippings. One print from 1892, a rare bird’s eye view drawing of the Port of New York, is for sale on the Argosy website for $12,500!

Next to these prints were huge shelves holding around 60,000 books in all shapes and sizes from over 220 genres and topics. I also came across two pamphlets from 1928 called “Hints on Etiquette” and “The Mental Differences Between Men and Women” that were about the length of my pointer finger.

Argosy recognizes that all parts of a book are art. As I wandered around the store I came across a basket of old book covers for sale, without the actual books inside. One beautiful forest green cover of “Black Beauty” caught my eye. It was then that Argosy transformed from a mere bookstore into a historic book and art museum.

I recommend Argosy to anybody interested in art, literature, or history. All the books and prints are in great condition for their age and there are many genres to explore. Even though the bookstore was bustling with customers, the workers at Argosy were incredibly helpful and kind. This was a great place for me to find, and I will definitely be returning to visit!