New York City has an incredibly long and rich history of book publishing as well as bookselling, dating back to the 19th Century. This project, completed within the course of a semester, could not begin to cover the breadth of the topic comprehensively. This map represents only a very small sample of the independent bookstores that have existed in New York City from the late 1890s to the present. The starting point on the timeline included this project is the formation of Book Row, where a high concentration of independent booksellers occupied an area "on and around Fourth Avenue, mainly South of Fourteenth Street and Union Square to Astor Place;" these "seven concentrated blocks on Fourth Avenue, plus a few side streets stretching west to Fifth Avenue and north to Twenty-third Street, supplied crowded sites for several dozen bookstores" (Mondlin and Meador xiii). In choosing from these dozens of stores - not to mention the dozens more that existed in other parts of the city - I chose to focus on ones that stood out for a number of factors: their longevity, cultural significance, and the compelling stories of the people who ran them or frequented them.
For the current bookstores on the map, I chose a small sample of those that have either survived through the changing cultural, technological, and economic landscape of New York City or have sprouted up in recent years in spite of these changes. A significant part of the story that this project leaves out is the rise (and fall) of chain bookstores such as Barnes and Noble and what effect those chains have had on neighboring independents in NYC. Despite that gap, which I simply did not have time to address, the current bookstores represented were selected for the vital role they fulfill as cultural centers and community spaces in a time where more and more people are buying or downloading their books online.
Mondlin, Marvin, and Roy Meador. Book row: an anecdotal and pictorial history of the antiquarian book trade. New York: Carroll & Graf Publishers, 2003. Print.