The Gotham Bookmart: Location, Location, Location

By David Emblidge.

Published by The International Journal of the Book

Format Price
Article: Print $US10.00
Article: Electronic $US5.00

This paper focuses on the rise and fall of one of America’s greatest literary bookstores, focusing on a famous catalog from 1940 celebrating literary modernism. The Gotham, owned by Frances Steloff, was the literary epicenter in US bookselling from 1920 on into the 1970s. Its mid-Manhattan location was ideal, but the sensibility of the bookseller, even more than the address, empowered The Gotham in its leadership role. Always encouraging toward new writers and new writing, The Gotham gave especially potent support to the “little magazines” that drove the movement known as literary modernism. The store was the “founder” and location of The Joyce Society (in the US). In 1940, The Gotham published a catalog called “We Moderns.” It cost twenty-five cents then, but is priced over $250 now on e-Bay. This famous catalog gives us a lens into how literary bookselling worked in mid-20th century America.

Keywords: Bookselling, Bookseller, Bookstore, Literary Modernism, American Publishing

The International Journal of the Book, Volume 9, Issue 4, pp.147-160. Article: Print (Spiral Bound). Article: Electronic (PDF File; 1.344MB).

Dr. David Emblidge

Associate Professor, Writing, Literature and Publishing Department, Emerson College, Boston, Massachusetts, USA

David Emblidge is an associate professor at Emerson College (Boston), in the graduate program in publishing. He is writing a narrative history of the American bookstore. Emblidge serves on the Editorial Board of LOGOS, on the Advisory Committee of The International Journal of the Book, and was the program organizer for that conference, at Emerson College, in October 2006. As an acquisitions editor, he has worked for Harvard and Cambridge university presses. He founded the trade book company, Berkshire House (sold to WW Norton). He edited My Day: The Best of Eleanor Roosevelt’s Acclaimed Newspaper Columns, 1936– 1962, (Da Capo Press); Beneath the Metropolis: The Secret Lives of Cities (Carroll and Graf); The Appalachian Trail Reader (Oxford); and several series, including Audubon Guides to National Wildlife Refuges (St. Martins), The Watson-Guptill Guides to ArtistsColonies, and Exploring the Appalachian Trail (Stackpole). His last in-house publishing position was editor-in-chief at The Mountaineers Books (Seattle), and he offers publishing workshops for academic and trade book writers.

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