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Gotham Book Mart Collection

The Gotham Book Mart was a vital bookstore in the New York literary scene from its creation in 1920 to its closing in 2006. In 2008, after the closure of the bookstore, the Penn Libraries received the remaining stock of books, along with papers and other items from this landmark institution.

Original Gotham Book Mart sign that declares "Wise Men Fish Here"

Collection Overview

The Gotham Book Mart (1920-2006) was one of Midtown Manhattan’s most iconic bookstores during the 20th century. Founded by Frances Steloff (1887-1989), the daughter of poor Russian-Jewish immigrants, the Book Mart became a social center for the New York literati and a focal point for literary modernism in the United States. The Gotham Book Mart served as a meeting point for the James Joyce Society and the Finnegan's Wake Society. Steloff also published books by well-known Modernists who came to her shop, including Andre Gide and Wallace Stevens.

Steloff’s successor, independent literary manuscript dealer Andreas Brown (1933-), maintained the store’s focus on avant-garde and small press publications while incorporating his own interests in postcards and genealogy. During Brown's tenure that Gotham began to sell authors' archives collections. While Brown was the owner of the Gotham Book Mart, he struck up a relationship with illustrator and writer Edward Gorey. Brown published Gorey's works, and Gorey was also involved in the production of promotional material for the Gotham Book Mart.

When the business closed in 2007, a donor arranged for the transfer of the bookstore's contents to the University of Pennsylvania Libraries. Organization and cataloging of these materials is ongoing.

Information for Researchers

Over 70,000 books formerly at the Gotham Book Mart are currently cataloged. These range widely in scope and genre and include rare poetry chapbooks, contemporary literature, and popular titles.

Over 3,000 periodicals form a portion of this cataloged collection. This wide range of materials includes many single issues of now often obscure journals. Titles are cataloged, and researchers should note the details of specific holdings (visible at the lower portion of the catalog record) to determine which number or numbers are held by the collection. 

The Gotham Book Mart Records (Ms. Coll. 1025) contains 95 boxes of material relating to the daily operation of the Book Mart; correspondence, biographical, and legal material from both Brown and Steloff; postcard and genealogical material collected by Brown; photographs of the store, its employees, and events which took place there; and manuscripts and ephemera offered for sale.

Two additional archival collections form part of the Gotham collection at Penn: the Gotham Book Mart collection of Edward Gorey papers (Ms. Coll. 1185) and the Padraic and Mary Column papers (Ms. Coll. 989).

Archival collections relating to the Gotham Book Mart held by other institutions are also linked below.


Related Sites

Accordion Column of Lists

The Harry Ransom Center (University of Texas, Austin) holds records related to the Gotham Book Mart; Skidmore College holds additional materials related to Frances Steloff; New York Public Library holds additional materials related to Gotham Book Mart, Frances Steloff, and the James Joyce Society; San Diego State University holds additional material related to Andreas Brown. Where available, links to collections are below.

Accordion Column of Lists

An exhibition from February 18 - May 20 2019 marked the centennial of the opening of the Gotham Book Mart: "Wise Men Fished Here: A Centennial Exhibition in Honor of the Gotham Book Mart, 1920 - 2020." The exhibition was accompanied by a conference and a published catalogue. More information about the exhibition.

Original Gotham Book Mart sign that declares "Wise Men Fish Here"
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The original Gotham Book Mart sign. Gotham Book Mart records, 1723-2006 (bulk: 1967-2006), Ms. Coll. 1025, Box 14, Folder 28.

Edward Gorey sketch of a man and a woman dancing.
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Sketch from the Gotham Book Mart collection of Edward Gorey material, 1945-2012, Ms. Coll. 1185