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Gotham Book Mart Collection

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  • Original Gotham Book Mart sign that declares "Wise Men Fish Here"
    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
    Sketch from the Gotham Book Mart collection of Edward Gorey material, 1945-2012, Ms. Coll. 1185

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 2007, after the closure of the bookstore, the University of Pennsylvania received the remaining stock of books, along with papers and other items from this landmark institution.

From February 18 - May 20 2019, there will be an exhibition called "Wise Men Fished Here: A Centennial Exhibition in Honor of the Gotham Book Mart, 1920 - 2020" as well as a conference. 

 

Collection History

 

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.

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.

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