Tucked away at the end of Hanbury Street, just off Brick Lane and past the numerous Shoreditch graffiti and Jack the Ripper tour groups (Hanbury Street was the crime scene of one of the (in)famous Jack the Ripper murders), you find Libreria, a spacious and unique bookshop. Although the beautiful interior is so Instagram-perfect, you’ll have to contain yourself as the usage of mobile phones is absolutely forbidden here. This shop is all about books and nothing but books, which are stacked from floor to ceiling on the curved wooden bookshelves.
Surprisingly, the brains behind Libreria are Second Home founders Rohan Silva and Sam Aldenton. Second Home is a members-only futuristic-looking workspace and creative hub, located in a former carpet factory just opposite of Libreria. While Second Home seems to be all about cool tech start-ups and networking, Libreria encourages its visitors to disconnect from the digital world for a moment. This is not a difficult task at all, as the beautiful lay-out, hidden reading alcoves and comfy seats will make you want to wander around for hours in order to discover all the hidden gems. In case you’re looking for a particular book, you might need some extra time indeed to find it as the categories are probably unlike any you’ve seen before. What about the category ‘Ways of seeing’, which includes children’s books, books on art, film and design, or ‘Brain and being’, ‘Time and space’, ‘Home and hearth’, ‘Despair and redemption’ and ‘Mothers, madonnas and whores’, just to name a few? As a friendly staff member explained to me this less conservative and rather subjective way of categorising titles does mean that copies of the same books are likely to appear in several sections, depending on the judgement of individual employees. The fact that Libreria doesn’t follow traditional rules, is actually what is so appealing to me.
Upon entering the bookshop, you’ll be surprised at the seemingly infinite space that’s hidden behind the handsome shopwindow. The illusion of this immense bookshop is created by the designers of Spanish studio SelgasCano by using a mirror at the end of the room. The architect duo took their inspiration from the short story The Library of Babel (1941) by Argentinian author Jorge Luis Borges.
Future plans for Libreria include printmaking workshops, talks, Q&As and other inspirational events. Although Libreria bookshop is quite new to the Shoreditch scene, it has already become one of my favourite local shops. It’s rather refreshing to have a shop in the middle of Hipster Quarter that doesn’t offer free Wi-Fi, nor sells craft beers, gluten-free cakes or soy-based flat whites. It’s an old-fashioned no-nonsense bookshop, but with a very attractive contemporary look. Go visit and judge for yourself, but remember to leave your phone safely in your pocket.