Books have been sold in many ways for centuries. Antiquarian bookshops in their present guise were created at the turn of the 20th century when the retail of old books was separated from regular bookshops and subsequently became a fully-fledged business venture. In the wake of the Communist coup d’etat of 1948, private businesses were prohibited and antiquarian bookshops became part of a unified network - the national company Kniha. Around the same time, books stemming from church and castle funds were dispatched to waste dumps and destroyed en masse. This reflects the transformation of the function of antiquarian bookshops which now served as havens for books from the private realm that were inconvenient for the regime.
Even though such books were commissioned, they couldn’t be resold and ended up in so-called preservation deposits. As a result, prices of these books sky-rocketed - a novel by a banned author would be sold for the price of old prints on the black market. Things went back to normal after 1989. Nevertheless, it would be naive to assume that antiquarian booksellers are philantropists who strive to save the cultural heritage. They are, first and foremost, businessmen.
The most lucrative are incunabulas, old Czech, German and Latin prints, alchemistic documents, mysticism, military, Judaism, Masonic literature and bibliophilia. Furthermore, there has been a growing demand for titles labelled under topography, ethnography and craftsmanship published during the Austro-Hungarian Empire. Aside from books, antiquarian bookshops also stock magazines, sheet music, posters, ex libris, maps or photographs, with postcards becoming a sought-after collector’s item. A large portion of the income of these stores is generated from the sale of prints.
Fiction writing more or less fails to elicit interest from the biggest players on the antiquarian market. For instance: Arcana Maiora by Johann Otto von Hellwig, published in 1712, was sold for 50,000 Czech crowns (2,170 euros), while Kundera’s Joke might fetch 80 crowns (3.5 euros).
On the other hand, antiquarian bookshops in the mid to low price range are often involuntarily flooded with fiction from purchases of comprehensive private libraries (when the estate of the deceased stipulates that everything has to be bought at once).
Contemporary literature is rarely stocked. The most plausible explanation for this is that it is published in small print runs and, encouragingly, that readers do not dispense with books by their favourite writers. Hence, it is almost impossible to find titles by Krchovský, Balabán, Kahuda, Denemarková, Jirous or Kremlička in these shops.
The following list includes established antiquarian bookshops in the Czech Republic.
1. podzemní antikvariát
Hybernská 22, Praha 1, www.podzemni-antikvariat.cz
Currently perhaps the most progressive antiquarian bookshop that boasts an incredibly diverse selection ranging from old prints to bargains. Notification about new additions is published online immediately.
Dlážděná 7, Praha 1, www.adplus.cz
Antiquarian bookshop with an illustrious tradition – the legendary 'Dlážděnka'. In the past, artists who were inconvenient for the Communist regime, such as the poet Zbyněk Hejda, writer Vladislav Zadrobílek aka D. Ž. Bor or the singer-songwriter Vlastimil Třešňák all found solace here as employees. The shelves are heaving with books and the enormous table in the frontroom brims with literary objects – of a more run-of-the-mill quality. The more interesting titles are only offered online. Alas, even antiquarian bookshops are finally moving into the virtual world.
Arco – Dlážděná 4, Praha 1
Dobrá kniha – Dlážděná 4, Praha 1
Antikvariát Bělehradská – Bělehradská 96, Praha 2
These three mutually interconnected stores make up the empire of the antiquarian bookseller Tomáš Maděra. In spite of the fact that these are all physical shops, their collective name, which contains the suffix .cz, alludes to the internet. When it comes to the number of titles on offer, Antikvariáty.cz is hard to beat.
Exceptionally charming place. Half of the space is filled with records with the likes of Yes or Pink Floyd emanating from the speakers. From time to time, extremely interesting books at favourable prices (a few euros) can be found in the shop window.
At the beginning of 2011, a new branch of the shop was opened in Spálená Street, closely connected to the adjoining bookstore and publisher Aurora.
Bělehradská 3, Praha 4, www.antikvariat-ungelt.cz
Jindřich Bretschneider started his antique business in the Little Quarter’s Vlašská Street and subsequently moved to Ungelt. In 2009, he terminated his business and nowadays sells his goods exclusively through the internet only running a purchasing office on Belehradská 3 with limited opening hours. His choice encompasses exclusive items in the price range of several hundred to tens of thousands of crowns: old Bohemian and foreign language prints, maps, vedutas, bibliophile books, artistic bookbinding, etc.
Klapkova 47, Praha 8, www.melcer.cz
Husband and wife owners Vratislav and Miroslava Melcer started their entrepreneurial activities as bookbinders and printers. These days they have branches in České Budejovice, Třeboň and Lomnice nad Lužnicí, covering a large portion of Southern Bohemia. Thus, it is understandable that their stock ranges from architecture to autobiographies. The distribution point for their e-shop is located in Klapkova Street in the vicnity of the Kobilisy metro stop in Prague.
Antikvariát Jiří Hrách
Na Šachtě 9, Praha 7, www.antikvariat-hrach.cz
Antikvariát Josef Počta
Kopečná 24, Praha 9, www.antikvariatpocta.cz
Široká 7, Praha 1
Antikvariát Judaica can be found in Prague’s Jewish Quarter, nestling between a plethora of historical sights. It therefore specializes in Jewish literature, encompassing a wide range of items from old prints to recently published books.
Opatovická 26, Praha 1, www.antik-kant.cz
Kant is located in Opatovická Street right next to the Jericho and Velryba cafés. Its owner, Miloslav Burdátš, can be usually found leaning against the counter knowledgeably talking to his customers. The way he sets his prices is fairly peculiar though – while elsewhere prices are usually rounded to tens or hundreds of crowns, here you can buy a book for 72 Czech crowns, for instance.
Antikvariát Eva Kozáková
Myslíkova 10, Praha 2, www.antikvariat-ucebnice.cz
Antiquarian bookshop specializing in textbooks and lecture notes.
Veleslavínova 3, Praha 1, www.exlibris.cz
Antikvariát Karel Křenek
Národní 20, Praha 1, www.karelkrenek.com
The original location of this antiquarian bookshop was in Celetná Street before relocating a few blocks away to U Obecního domu Street. Since 2008 it has been located in Národní třída. "Aside from beautiful, old or rare books, we also offer a large collection of old maps, decorative prints, posters and etchings that will satisfy the needs of both collectors and interior designers. We only sell originals from the 16th to 20th centuries. Passe-Partout and framing upon demand."
Antikvariát Dana Kurovce
Boleslavská 1, Jičínská 6, Praha 3, www.dantikvariat.cz
Online antiquarian bookshop. The aforementioned locations only provide commissioning services.
Mukařovského 1986, Praha 13, www.antikvariat-luziny.cz
Antikvariát Malá sova
Originally located in Jugoslávských partizánů Street. Since spring 2011 the shop has solely been internet-based. The books purchased online can be picked up in Karlín – in Antikvariát Ve Dvoře (Sokolovská 76).
Národní 40, Praha 1
A small shop, whose size doesn’t exceed a few square metres, boasts the perfect location in Palác Adria on the corner of Národní Street and Jungmann Square. Můstek stands out because ninety percent of its sales are made from its window display. Within the confines of the shop, one can come across predominantly German and Latin prints, maps, vedutas as well as booklets brought out by Josef Florian‘s publishing company in Stará Říše. Můstek is an antiquarian bookshop with a refined taste.
Nerudova 16, Praha 1, www.antikvariatnerudova.cz/index.php?s=kontakt
One would expect an overpriced shop in this touristy area and, as a consequence, many tend to avoid it, which is a mistake. Antikvariát Nerudova is a cosy antiquarian bookshop with friendly staff. Because of its relatively small premises, it does not offer a large selection of books – fiction has been reduced to a single bookshelf. The majority of the stock is composed of pragensia (books about Prague), military and history books.
Aukční agentura a antikvariát Prošek
Na Zlatnici 28, Praha 4, www.prosekant.wdr.cz/index_.php
Václav Prošek is a trailblaizer in non-traditional bookselling. Auction-sale catalogues can be downloaded online. Auctions take place online as well as at an auction hall.
Újezd 26, Praha 1, www.artbook.cz
Kotevní 11, Praha 5, www.antikvariat-smichov.cz
Situated around the corner from the train station in one of Smíchov’s off-the-beaten-track streets with an assortment of titles that pefectly blend into the shop’s surroundings. Antikvariát Smíchov is a traditional hodge-podge with goods placed in banana boxes – one of the few remaining antiquarian bookshops of this kind.
Stroupežnického 32, Praha 5, www.korous.cz
Antikvariát Synagoga, as its name suggests, is situated in the Smíchov Synagogue near Anděl. It belongs to the same owner as the antiquarian bookshop in Karmelitská Street in the Little Quarter. Its counters and shelves are stacked with books that can easily be found elsewhere too. The most interesting titles are displayed in the glass case and shouldn’t be missed: not only because the pricing of this store is largely unfathomable – an underrated gem may occasionally appear among all the overpriced books.
Valentinská 8, Praha 1, www.valentinska.cz
This shop, located in Valentinská Street, cannot be omitted from this list. Frequented by tourists who pass by on their way from Charles Bridge to the Jewish Quarter, Valentinská also has its regulars - students and teachers from the nearby Faculty of Arts at Charles University. Due to its relatively small premises, the most interesting titles tend to be placed in the window display, with thousands of other items sold online. Twice a year, the shop organizes auctions in cooperation with the auction agency Prošek.
Antikvariát Ve dvoře
Sokolovská 76, Praha 8, http://www.t-antik.com
Antikvariát Ve dvoře is situated in the formerly industrial Prague quarter of Karlín. The shop is located in a small working-class house in a courtyard near a factory chimney, which conjures up a unique atmosphere.
Betlémská 10–14, Praha 1, www.ztichlaklika.cz
This antiquarian bookshop is directed at a more affluent clientele, stocking rare prints, incunabulas, old Bohemica, alchemy, avant-garde, architecture, painting, graphic art. It is spread over three buildings in Betlémská Street, one of which also encompasses a gallery.
Kounicova 15, Brno, http://boudapetr.sweb.cz
Jánská 11, Brno, www.antikalfa.cz
Antikvariát Františka Samoty
Třída Kpt. Jaroše 19, Brno, www.samota.cz
Kopečná 72, Brno
Kotlářská 34, www.antikvariat-janos.cz
U Jakubské věže
Rašínova 1, Brno
Antikvariát u Semilassa
Palackého 95, Brno
Kapucínské nám. 11, Brno, www.antikvariat-vintrlik.cz
Antikvariáty Zdeňky Täuberové
Antikvariát Za věží, Kněžská 18 and Dům umění, náměstí Přemysla Otakara II. č. 38, http://antikvariat.najihu.cz/
Kobzinové 2015, Havlíčkův Brod, www.antikhb.cz
The allure of this antiquarian bookshop can be largely attributed to its premises. Štáfl Cottage is a late medieval edifice built in a rural style. It is one of the oldest preserved examples of these traditional buildings in the Czech Republic. The skeleton of the building is grafted. A smoke-house area with a ventilation opening was discovered during renovation works. What is more, there is also a black range kitchen and a well-preserved ceiling there.
Antikvariát Jiří Holub
T. G. Masaryka 51, Karlovy Vary
Knihkupectví a antikvariát Jaroslava Fryče
Pražská 14, Liberec, www.antik-fryc.cz
Knihkupectví a antikvariát Jaroslava Fryče is located right in the heart of Liberec, just a stone’s throw from the square, in a large store with the antiquarian bookshop situated in the back room behind the bookshop. One can discover interesting finds – as is often the case in these types of shops - but with a minimum of old prints. It is the best online store with efficient distribution with the order often arriving within a day after the purchase.
Nádražní 30, Ostrava, www.antikfiducia.com
Divadelní 2, Plzeň, www.antikvariat-benes.cz
Veleslavínova 14, Plzeň, www.antikusoudu.wbs.cz
Pražská 5, Plzeň, www.vedvore.cz
Žižkova 2, Tábor, www.antikvariatcz.com
The antiquarian bookshop Bastion is run by the open-minded Miroslav Nimrichtr who scans publications about the Tábor region prior to selling them and subsequently puts them online as PDF files, where they can be downloaded for free. An unparalleled deed in the Czech Republic, especially for those interested in the history of this region.
Hasskova 4, Třebíč, www.knihy-arcanum.cz/knihy-arcanum/eshop/1-1-antikvariat
Antikvariát Jindřich Špinar
Zlatá Koruna 1
Zlatá Koruna is situated in the premises of a Cistercian cloister. In summer this South Bohemian village attracts a large number of visitors and paddlers on the river Vltava. This is the crux of the bookstore’s strategy. Among the more usual titles, one can unearth interesting books concerning regional topography.