Your bookshops #27, Het ivoren aapje

When a European reader got in touch and asked if I'd be willing to accept a guest post about a bookshop they love I jumped at the chance. Eric lives in Belgium and – I believe – has excellent taste in books and bookshops. 

Het ivoren aapje
Begijnhofplein 4, Brussel, Belgium
Tel: +32 2219 4686
Posted: 22nd March, 2017

It would be a shame if the shop Het ivoren aapje is not on your book-buying map when you visit Brussels, the capital city of Belgium. This urban legend is well known among Belgian book lovers. The owner Frederik, historian and poet, is a real bookish kind of genius. He has the capacity to tell you in a few words what a book is all about.

When I saw the call for guest writers for this bookshop blog, I judged it as my duty to write something about this shop. I often wonder why this shop is not more known.

It is located in Brussels, near the Church of Saint John the Baptist at the B├ęguinage (French: Saint-Jean-Baptiste au B├ęguinage, dutch Sint-Jan-de-Doper op het Begijnhof). This church is an illustration of the Italian influenced Flemish Baroque style of the 17th century. Every time I visit the shop I have a feeling to be in the heart of Florence.

This secondhand bookshop's name is inspired by a long forgotten novel by Flemish author Herman Teirlinck (1879-1967). Frederik has a thing with using bookish names, a long time ago he had a bookshop in Antwerp called K, after Franz Kafka's novel, The trial. Frederik always has different copies of the book Het ivoren aapje in the back of his shop. That is where you find him, behind his desk. In the middle of his shop you can even find the bookshop dog called Menendez named after… for you to find out?

Don’t judge this bookshop by its cover. It looks like a small shop on the outside, but you would be amazed about the quantity of books there are inside this store. Visiting the shop is like entering a real bookstream of consciousness. In fact, I have known Frederik for some years and I would be surprised to find a book in his shop that he does not like. I always have the idea that he gives books a last chance to shine.

Even though the name of the shop is Dutch, a small majority of the books are English – I bought Charles Dickens' Great Expectations on this visit. You can find novels, historical studies, classics, poetry, philosophy, theology... There are, however, books in other languages as well: French, German, Italian, Spanish, Portuguese,… A real European shop, so to speak. Frederik has an eye for beautiful paintings also and the shop is decorated with them. If you like art and books, you’re at the right address.

There is also a good chance that you find in the shop complete works of a writer. Bibliomaniacs are warned!

Thank you very much to Eric for writing about Het ivoren aapje. He's promised to write about another bookshop in the future, and I look forward to sharing it with you all.


  1. It really is a fantastic bookshop, my absolute favourite antiquarian bookshop in Brussels, and the range of books in English
    is astonishing. They are mostly literature and university-level texts, books of poetry, old editions, simply heaven. And a permanent shelf of Virago greenbacks too.

    1. Brilliant. Thank you Kate, it's always great to hear from another person who loves a bookshop featured.


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