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Book Row: An Anecdotal and Pictorial History of the Antiquarian Book Trade Hardcover – November 24, 2003

4.2 out of 5 stars 9 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Between 1890 and the 1960s, a bustling trade in used and rare books flourished in New York City along Fourth Avenue, between Union Square and Astor Place. Although the stores that once prospered on this little stretch of street have long since closed, the memories of the halcyon days of the bookselling trade in the city still live in the minds of former customers and store employees. Drawing on interviews and on seminal articles published in the early- and mid-20th century, Mondlin (estate buyer at the Strand) and book collector Meador vividly re-create the passion, wonder and adventure of the book trade as it developed along Book Row. The authors paint portraits of the booksellers who established the Row and who secured its reputation among book lovers. There is George D. Smith, the shrewd but gentlemanly book collector who helped Henry E. Huntington build his own library. Called by many "the greatest American bookdealer," Smith provided an example of the persistence and keen insight into the value of books that became the hallmark of the stores on Book Row. The authors also chronicle other dealers such as Eleanor Lowenstein, whose Corner Book Shop specialized in cookbooks; David Kirschenbaum, who developed a stellar collection of Walt Whitman that formed the foundation of the Library of Congress's collection; and Harry Gold, whose Aberdeen Book Company was the first among the antiquarian stores on Book Row to feature paperbacks, in the 1920s. The authors also reminisce about favorite stores, such as Albert F. Goldsmith's At the Sign of the Sparrow, which specialized in theater memorabilia and which very likely provided the setting for mystery writer Carolyn Wells's Murder in the Bookshop. Mondlin and Meador's affectionate paean to the denizens and dealers of Book Row brings to life the glory days of one of New York City's greatest bygone treasures.
Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information, Inc.

From Booklist

For about 100 years, secondhand bookstores clustered on Fourth Avenue in New York City between Union Square and Astor Place. Their names read like an incantation: Samuel Weiser, Dauber & Pine, Biblio & Tannen, the Abbey, the Raven, the Corner. They are mostly gone now, save the Strand, whose mighty 16 miles of books are still funky despite a whole new audience online. Mondlin, who is estate buyer for the Strand, and Meador, a collector, have produced a sprawling and remarkably engaging omnium gatherum of names, personalities, and store lore. Some of the people they profile loved books; some of them loved the hunt; some of them mostly loved the mise-en-scene. Each chapter begins with an apt quote, and there are lists, acknowledgments, reminiscences, and photographs (the last not available in galleys). For anyone interested in the antiquarian book world, this will be a very special volume. GraceAnne DeCandido
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved

Product Details

  • Hardcover: 400 pages
  • Publisher: Carroll & Graf (November 24, 2003)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0786713054
  • ISBN-13: 978-0786713059
  • Product Dimensions: 9.4 x 6.4 x 1.4 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.6 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (9 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,118,701 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Hardcover
Reading Mondlin and Meador's descriptions of the long-gone used-book emporia that once graced Fourth Avenue in New York City both depressed and exhilarated me. Depressed, because I'll never have a chance to browse their musty aisles crowded with books. Exhilarated, because this volume successfully captures the thrill of browsing that I've experienced at the Strand bookstore (the sole Book Row survivor) and a few other stores. It's too bad the mindset of our culture has shifted to one in which an intelligent pleasure like browsing for good, cheap used books--in person, in a physical store--has been marginalized. Yes, Web bookbuying has its advantages, but still...I feel something precious has been lost.
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Format: Hardcover
It is refreshing to read books written by bibliophiles who express a true appreciation for fine books. They are true literary aesthetes. I've never known scholars or even poets to express such a love of books. Reading "Book Row" has inspired me to acquire more of the classics in fine editions. I think the authors were a little too dismissive of the Internet which has been a tremendous help to me in finding rare books. I no longer have to settle for what I find on the shelves in bookstores with bad taste in books. I can always find exactly what I want to read. The Internet is the greatest bookman there ever was!
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Format: Paperback
This is a wonderful attempt to look at the century and a quarter of the world of Books,Bookstores,Booksellers,Book Buyers,Rare Book Collectors,Just Plain Avid Readers,The Normal as well as the Eccentric;but all Bibliophiles in one form or another; and what took place in Book Row of New York.What an amazing world it was, and a world that we are not likely to see again. While a street or section occupied by bookstores is not unique to New York,this was one of the most famous in the world. There still places where there are collections of bookstores,even some "Book Villages" that have a nostalgic ring to what Boor Row was,;but Book Row ,and all involved, was the real thing.
Most of what is talked about in this book went on long before my time as an avid reader,but I can still appreciate what a thrill it must have been to be a regular visitor to this place.
I think that the real value in reading this book is to see how greatly the whole experience of buying and selling of books,be they new,used,rare,expensive,cheap,or whatever;has changed so much and so quickly.About 25 or so years ago,when I seriously searched out books for my collection ,I visited literally hundreds of bookstores,particularly the Used & Rare ,and encountered a wide array of stores and sellers,and what a thrill to find a store that I had never been in;and find a new "treasure".Even when not finding anything,the bookseller and the store was still an experience.
However;what I used to call "going book sailing" is nothing what it used to be and many of the stores I used to haunt are "gone with the wind".I guess for the same reasons as with Book Row.
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Format: Hardcover
I have to admit I'm divided on this book. As a 4-5 block slice of New York City history, it's thoroughly researched and reported and many times engaging, with some real characters from a decidedly off-center cache. And as an insider's look at a burgeoning book trade with more book shelves per square block than we're ever likely to see again (sadly), I found it in turn wistfully nostalgic in both the descriptions of dead booksellers and quotes from the ones still alive, and elegiac in its ruminations on the sad state of our post-Book Row culture.

The problem is, each of the things I liked about it work against it as well. Its narrow scope is problematic, at least within the framework Meador and Mondlin use, with many of the chapters seeming a lot like the ones before them with the names changed and a lot of factual repetition. And the nostalgia can get a little overbearing, with a pretty strong Neo-Luddite bias toward internet book dealers ("Those who had the books and the know-how might buy and sell books on the Net, but we'd like to hear Peter Stammer's, Sam Dauber's, and Jack Biblo's views of them as secondhand book dealers"). You could also say that as estate book buyer for the Strand Meador's neutrality might come into question, and you wouldn't be disproved with chapter titles like "The Strand Lives On" and almost a third of the glossy pictures devoted to the Bass family that runs the Strand.

In sum I'd say this is a book for book-industry specialists (especially the older ones who might recognize more of the names the authors drop without much historical grounding) and book buffs with enough interest to sift through 400 pages that could have easily been 200. I fall more into the latter than the former, but even then would recommend Chapters One, Two, Five, Nine, Eleven, Fourteen, Fifteen, the Appendix (a cool little pre-Book Row history of books in NYC), and the foreword by legendary book collector Madeleine B. Stern.
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Format: Hardcover
In the last couple of decades of the 19th century and the first few decades of the 20th century, New York City was home to a series of legendary booksellers who did business on and around Fourth Street south of Fourteenth Street. It came to be called "Book Row" by dedicated bibliophiles and had its own very distinctive culture, aromas, and for the true book lover, an excitement that could not be duplicated in the same quantity, quality, or diversity in any other American city of the time. In Book Row: An Anecdotal And Pictorial History Of The Antiquarian Book Trade, authors Marvin Mondlin and Roy Meador have collaborated to provide a definitive and enthusiastically recommended history of the times and personalities that made Book Row the Mecca for book collectors in search of antiquarian treasures, as well as budget bookaholics looking for something interesting to read.
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