The Alan Sondheim Mail Archive

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Date: Sun, 4 Jan 2009 00:20:11 -0500
From: Joel Lewis <penwaves@GMAIL.COM>
Reply-To: "Poetics List (UPenn, UB)" <POETICS@LISTSERV.BUFFALO.EDU>
Subject: Gotham Book Mart Holdings Are Given to Penn

from NY TIMESJANUARY 2, 2009, 12:51 PM
By SEWELL CHAN <>Andreas
Brown, the last owner of the Gotham Book Mart, readied vintage photos of
Arthur Miller and James Joyce in 2004 in preparation for a move to a new
location. (Photo: Frances Roberts for The New York Times)

Updated, 4:50 p.m. | About 200,000 items from the Gotham Book Mart, which
closed in 2007 after 87 years as a New York literary haven of international
stature, have been
donated<> to
the University of Pennsylvania.

An anonymous donor purchased the store's inventory and donated it to the
university, which announced the donation on Dec. 18. The holdings �
primarily modern and contemporary poetry and literature, but also including
works on art, architecture, jewelry, music, dance and film � will go to
Penn's Rare Book and Manuscript Library, which is known for its collection
of antiquarian materials from before 1850. Citing experts, The Philadelphia
Inquirer reported on Thursday that the collection was valued at several
million dollars<>,
but most of the store's inventory was bought at an auction by its landlords
for $400,000 in 2007.

"We're honored to steward the collection and give it new life as an academic
resource," H. Carton Rogers, vice provost and director of libraries at the
University of Pennsylvania, said in a statement.

The collection includes first editions, experimental literary magazines and
books from small presses, including "outsider literature" published by Black
Sparrow Press and poetry published by St. Mark's Church, the university

The collection includes "proofs, advance copies, pamphlets, photographs,
posters, reference works, catalogs, broadsides, prints and postcards," the
university said. There are books from the personal libraries of Truman
  and Ana�s Nin<>,
as well as items signed by Arthur Miller, Tennessee Williams, Robinson
Jeffers, Woody Allen, Wallace Stevens and John Updike.

The Gotham Book Mart was founded on West 45th Street in 1920 by Frances
It was the haunt of literary figures like Theodore Dreiser, John Dos Passos,
H. L. Mencken, Arthur Miller, John Updike, J. D. Salinger and Eugene
O'Neill. Itexhibited<>
works of the artist Edward Gorey. Its customers included George and Ira
Gershwin, Charlie Chaplin, Alexander Calder, Stephen Spender, Woody Allen,
Saul Bellow, John Guare, Katharine Hepburn and Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis.
At various points, Allen Ginsberg, LeRoi Jones and Tennessee Williams (for a
day) worked as clerks there.

Under Miss Steloff, the store twice moved to larger quarters, but stayed
within a two-block area, settling in 1946 at 41 West 47th Street. Miss
Steloff sold the
1967 to Andreas Brown, another book lover, but continued to live in an
apartment on the third floor, above the store, and remained as a working

"Along with its fame and reputation, the Gotham was also a very carefully
operated book business," Herbert Mitgang wrote in an
  of Miss Steloff<>,
who died in 1989 at age 101. "As the owner and the person who paid the
salaries, Miss Steloff was demanding, irascible, unwearying and unable to
understand why no one else was willing to put as many hours or as much
concentration into the store as she did."

Beloved as it was, the bookstore had many problems over the years. In 1997,
Mr. Brown agreed to pay $1.4
Joanne Carson, who had turned over $640,000 in savings to him in 1988 and
1991 to help him buy and repair the brownstone that houses the store. In
1995, she decided she wanted her loan back with interest, and filed
The Gotham Book Mart's final home, at 16 East 46th Street. (Photo: Tina
Fineberg for The New York Times)

Mr. Brown said he would pay the money back in 2000, after selling the
building. But the sale did not occur until 2003, when Mr. Brown sold the
a town house in the heart of the diamond district, for $7.2 million. In
2004, the store moved <> to
the former H. P. Kraus antiquarian bookstore, at 16 East 46th
which had closed in 2003.

It later emerged that two benefactors who had wished to remain
anonymous � Leonard
A. Lauder<>,
the cosmetics heir, who has an interest in antique postcards, and Edmondo
Schwartz, a real estate developer � had purchased the East Side building for
$5.2 million and leased it to Mr. Brown to save the Gotham. But by 2006, he
had fallen behind<>
his $51,000 monthly rent and owed at least $500,000 in rent, taxes, interest
and other fees, and the landlords moved to evict him. The store was on its
last legs.

In May 2007, many of Gotham's possessions � including books signed by Mr.
Updike, letters from D. H. Lawrence, and Andy Warhol's wig rack � were sold
at auction <> to the
landlords, who bid $400,000. The store's workers had never finished
unpacking the books from the 2004 move.

The university said that it knew the identity of the donor but that the
donor had insisted on anonymity.

Mr. Lauder, former chairman of the Est�e Lauder Companies, graduated from
Penn in 1954 and is an emeritus member of its board of trustees. Jonathan J.
Faust, a lawyer for Mr. Lauder, declined to comment on Mr. Lauder's
involvement with Gotham Book Mart.

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