From a new location in Pioneer Square, Arundel Books is in business of selling dreams


Neighborhood reads

About a month after the coronavirus pandemic began to spread in Washington state, in the middle of that first dark, wintry lockdown, pretty much every store in Pioneer Square was boarding up its windows.

Nobody knew exactly how long the lockdown would last or how people would react to the empty streets. Murals appeared on the barricaded windows and doors, adding the required color to the largely deserted neighborhood.

One beautiful mural stood out in particular: the boarded up front of Arundel Books on First Avenue featured a pair of hands, a crystal ball and a few clouds, and an all-seeing eye above, staring at a fluttering book. Written in large letters across the mural, a quote from bestselling author Neil Gaiman: “A book is a dream that you hold in your hands.”

To the owner of Arundel Books, Phil Bevis, it felt like the right statement for the time: hopeful, literary, serious. The mural became an international sensation that has been shared countless times on Twitter and Reddit.

When Arundel reopened under COVID-19 security protocols, Bevis left the mural intact and hung it in the store. He turned to Gaiman’s representative to ask permission Sell ​​limited edition prints of the mural as a broadside. “You were so generous,” recalls Bevis. “When they said yes, it was the worst day of the pandemic and it got us a little breather.” Arundel has since shipped copies of the print around the world.

Born in Pullman, Bevis has been selling and publishing books since the mid-1980s. In 1987 he opened his own new and used bookstore, Arundel Books, in Los Angeles and a second location in Seattle in 1995. After more than a decade dividing his time between LA and Seattle, Bevis retired in 2010 and made Arundel an exclusive Seattle.

Arundel carries around 35,000 titles, a vibrant mix of antiquarian, used and brand new books. Bevis explains, “The oldest book we currently have in stock is from the 1520s and the newest is a book that came out yesterday.” The staff of eight booksellers pursue their interests, from science to science fiction to Literature in translation and a growing children’s section.

Arundel also sells prints by local artists, and the shop serves as a showroom for Chatwin Books, the publisher of Bevis. Chatwin publishes a variety of authors from the collected works of the former Seattle Seattle poet Maged Zaher for an overview of Impressionist Vashon Island themes Painting by local artist Pam Ingalls and a new anthology Documentation of some of the murals on display in Seattle shop windows during the pandemic.

Arundel lives at the intersection of Bevis’ many interests – fine arts, the entire lifespan of a book and high quality letterpress printing. “If I just printed and published, I wouldn’t be happy,” says Bevis. “And if I was just running a bookstore, it wouldn’t work either. I didn’t think I’d have so much fun at this point in my career. “

Like a kind of literary glacier, Arundel slowly moved along First Avenue throughout its existence. It debuted across from the Seattle Art Museum, but moved a few blocks south when the building was demolished to make way for the Harbor Steps. The next location had the best balcony in Seattle, but a new seat in the Grand Central Building in Pioneer Square was too good to refuse.

Last February, in the middle of a snow storm, Arundel again moved to a beautiful, bright room on First Ave. P. 322. Covering 2,000 square feet, the new excavations look much the same as they did when they were built in 1900. A series of friezes lining the vaulted ceilings depict the immigration history of the Schmidt family, the first tenants of the space and the creators of the Olympia Brewing Company. If you look at the great view from the front of the store, Bevis looks like a teenager in love. “Our room at Grand Central was beautiful, but there is something about this room that really makes it a pleasure to work in. It has a real lightness. “

From launch parties for new Chatwin titles to celebrating milestones in the careers of Seattle artists, Arundel is famous for its wine-fired book celebrations. Bevis can’t wait to host readings in this new space: all of the shelves in the center of the shop can be pushed aside, creating a narrow reading room with imposing white columns reminiscent of a church lined with books.

Pioneer Square has been the literary heart of Seattle for decades. In the second half of the 20th century, Seattle’s readers flocked to the neighborhood to find treasure in popular institutions like the Seattle Mystery Bookshop, David Ishii, Bookseller and Bowie & Weatherford, Booksellers. Arundel’s new location feels like a continuation of that tradition. It’s on the corner of First and South Jackson Streets, across the block from the original Elliott Bay Book Company location. Bevis swears Arundel’s move south is complete.

“That’s it. We’re done,” he says. “This is the natural home for this store.”

What books do Arundel customers read?

“Our bestseller in recent years has been across the board ‘Feed seven generations, ‘”Explains Bevis. Subtitled “A Salish cookbook“Elise Krohn and Valerie Segrest’s collection of indigenous recipes using local ingredients has taught readers how to prepare seasonal and geographically appropriate dishes that have been made in the Pacific Northwest for hundreds of years.

Arundel’s second-best writer in the past three years has seen a remarkable rebound on the charts considering he’s been dead for nearly two millennia. Marcus Aurelius’ “Meditations“Has proven popular with browsers,” which is just a nice surprise, says Bevis.

“As Pioneer Square has become a home of the knowledge economy, our science and science fiction departments have grown,” explains Bevis. The shop sells many titles by Gaiman – no surprise given the now world-famous mural with the Gaiman quote – but no author has gained more popularity with Arundel’s customers than NK Jemisin. “We can hardly keep them in stock,” he says.

Arundel has always drawn customers with an eye for the fine arts. And one of the most popular artists in the shop is the illustrator Shaun Tan. “People are enthusiastic about his work,” says Bevis. “He makes books for adults that emphasize the child in all of us, even if they are still pretty dark.” Bevis is particularly fascinated by Tan’s control of emptiness: “He’s not afraid to leave space in a picture for someone can enter. “

Arundel books

daily 11 am-7pm; 322 First Avenue S., Seattle; 206-624-4442;


Leave A Reply