The Bryn Mawr-Wellesley Book Sale, a Princeton tradition that organizers say is the oldest and largest used book sale on the East Coast, will take place beginning on March 25 at Princeton Day School.
This year, the 85th annual sale will feature 85,000 books, including a “Treasure Island” section featuring rare and unusual editions at bargain prices.
Organizers say books will be offered in more than 60 categories, including non-fiction, fiction, trade, hard back, soft back, rare and collectible books, coffee table books, and photography books. The book sale also will have a very large children’s section this year.
Books are donated by Princeton scholars, local celebrities, and ordinary book lovers, and all proceeds from the sale support college scholarships for young women from Central New Jersey. After the sale, remaining books go to service organizations working with prisoners, people in Africa, and other groups.
The sale started in 1931 when a small group of Bryn Mawr graduates bicycled around Princeton collecting books to sell for Depression-era student scholarship support. The sale kept growing, and out-growing its location. The event has been held in a private home, a church basement, a firehouse, an empty storefront, Princeton University’s Baker Rink and Princeton Day School’s McGraw
Rink. Today books are collected year-round on Vandeventer Street in downtown Princeton and stored in a warehouse until the week before the sale.
Bryn Mawr alumnae were joined by members of the Wellesley College Club of Central New Jersey in 1995, adding scores of extra hands to pull off the all-volunteer endeavor. It is estimated that more than 6,000 people have worked on the sale over the past 85 years. More than 100 volunteers work to make the sale a success each year.
A fire in 1971 fire destroyed books being readied for the 1972 sale, but donors rose to the occasion and provided enough new volumes to match previous numbers. In 2011, Hurricane Irene flooded the book sale’s storage facility, ruining a valuable collection of antique German books. When people heard about the losses, they provided a fresh influx of donations.
Treasures are regularly discovered at the sale, explaining why
customers come from as far away as Ohio, Main, Florida, and West Virginia. Fist editions by Virginia Wolfe, J.D. Salinger, A.A. Milne, E.B. White, and F. Scott Fitzgerald have been sold at the event, and
in 1981 a letter written by Joseph Conrad was found in a tattered copy of Lord Jim.
The average book at the sale costs $2, and most buyers carry away entire boxes overflowing with hardcover books.
The five-day sale begins Friday, March 25, with preview day from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. The entrance fee for preview day is $25. Admission is free for the rest of the sale. You can purchase tickets for the preview day online until Friday, March 18 at 6 p.m. You will then be entered into a random drawing that will determine your place in line. Preview tickets will also be available at the door on March 25 starting at 8 a.m. Tickets will be assigned consecutive numbers on a first come, first served basis after those already assigned by lottery.
Free Admission Days
Saturday, March 26th, 10am-6pm
Sunday, March 27th, Closed for Easter
Monday, March 28th, 10am-9pm
Books Half-Price Day
Tuesday, March 29 10am-9pm
Box Day (Books $10 per box)
Wednesday, March 30 10am-3pm
For more information about the sale, donations, or volunteering, visit the Bryn Mawr-Wellesley Book Sale website. The address for Princeton Day School is 650 Great Road, Princeton, NJ 08540. Park and enter the building at the northwest end of the campus. Do not use the rink driveway entrance. Look for signs directing visitors to the sale.