New York City has eight million stories, and this one unfolds just south of Fourteenth Street in Manhattan, on the seven blocks of Fourth Avenue bracketed by Union Square and Astor Place. There, for nearly eight decades from the 1890s to the 1960s, thrived the New York Booksellers’ Row, or Book Row.
This richly anecdotal memoir features historical photographs and the rags-to-riches tale of the Strand, which began its life as a book stall on Eighth Street and today houses 2.5 million volumes (or sixteen miles of books) in twelve miles of space. It’s a story cast with characters as legendary and colorful as the horse-betting, poker-playing, go-getter of a book dealer George D. Smith; the irascible Russian-born book hunter Peter Stammer; the visionary Theodore C. Schulte; Lou Cohen, founder of the still-surviving Argosy Book Store; and gentleman bookseller George Rubinowitz and his formidably shrewd wife, Jenny.
Book Row remembers places that all lovers of books should never forget, like Biblo & Tamen, the shop that defied book-banning laws; the Green Book Shop, favored by John Dickson Carr; Ellenor Lowenstein’s world-renowned gastronomical Corner Book Shop (which was not on a corner); and the Abbey Bookshop, the last of the Fourth Avenue bookstores to close its doors.
Rising rents, street crime, urban redevelopment, and television are many of the reasons for the demise of Book Row, but in this volume, based on interviews with dozens of the people who bought, sold, collected, and breathed in its rare, bibliodiferous air, it lives again.
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About the Author
Roy Meador was a book collector and freelance writer. His work was published in the New York Times, the Chicago Tribune, Smithsonian, and Analog. He lived in Ann Arbor, Michigan.
Table of Contents
Preface The Lore and Lure of Book Row xiii
Hymn to Fourth Avenue Eli Siegel xxi
Chapter 1 The Smith a Mighty Bookman Was He: G.D.S. and Bookselling from Fourth Avenue to the Collecting World 1
Chapter 2 An Early Beaux Books Quartet Isaac Mendoza Jacob Abrahams Peter Stammer David Kirschenbaum 19
Chapter 3 Dauber & Pine and the Sparrow Sign Samuel Dauber Nathan S. Pine Alfred F. Goldsmith 39
Chapter 4 Giant Schulte's and a "Ship of Books" Theodore Schulte Philip Pesky Wilfred Pesky Dave Butler Louis Cohen 57
Chapter 5 Book Row and the Booksellers' Associations 77
Chapter 6 Bookselling in the Family Way Samuel Weiser Stanley Gilman Scheinbaum Brothers Other Relatives 95
Chapter 7 A Book Row Odysseus and Other Bookmen True Harry Gold Milton Applebaum Henry Chafetz Sidney Solomon 113
Chapter 8 Their Memories Outlived the Bookshops Ben Jack Rosenzweig George Jenny Rubinowitz 133
Chapter 9 The Winning Pair of Jacks Jack Biblo Jack Tannen 151
Chapter 10 Books 'n Booksellers 'n Book lovers Harold Gertrude Briggs Bernard Kraus Harry Ruth Carp 169
Chapter 11 The Bookseller with Strong Opinions: Remembering, Honoring, Fearing and Enjoying Walter Goldwater 189
Chapter 12 Cookbooks, a Scholar, and the Brussel Scouts Eleanor Lowenstein Louis Schucman The Brussel Brothers 207
Chapter 13 Where Have All the Readers Gone? Haskell Gruberger Leon Kramer Seymour Hacker 231
Chapter 14 Book Row Memories: Buyers, Browsers, and Mourners 253
Chapter 15 The Strand Lives On Benjamin Bass Fred Bass Nancy Bass 283
Chapter 16 The Later Generation Timothy Johns Glenn Horowitz Steve Crowley 307
Chapter 17 Book Row - Past Present Future 325
Epilogue Book Row Forever Redux 343
Appendix The Island of Books: A Look Back to the Earliest Decades of Books in New York City 363