In the Bookstore:The Houses of Appleton and Book Cultures in Antebellum New York City
This article explores the landscape of retail bookstores in New York City between 1820 and 1860, tracking patterns of growth and trade through original maps and examining the material and symbolic significance of the built environment of bookstores. Antebellum New York City was an incubator for the emerging forms and functions of the retail bookstore. These bookstores sold more than books—not only a wide variety of material goods, but also ideals of the book-buying consumer and models for public engagement with print. This article narrates a transition in forms of literary sociability occasioned by the material and social space of the bookstore by examining two stores operated by D. Appleton & Co. from the 1830s through the 1850s. In playing with the relationship between civic and commercial forms and values, Appleton’s stores highlight the precarious—and sometimes paradoxical—values underlying the bookstore’s ideals of public engagement with print. By layering scales—physical and social geography, the city and store, the map and narrative—“In the Bookstore” demonstrates the significance of local literary spaces to broader conceptions of book culture.
In February of 1860, Harper’s Magazine featured what would become an iconic view of bustling nineteenth-century New York City. The double-page illustration of “View of Broadway, Opposite Fulton Street, New York” depicts a raucous, riotous street scene of snow-hampered New Yorkers trying to get somewhere, anywhere, in the packed streets (Figure 1).1 Police struggle with rearing horses, box-laden sleds block passenger omnibuses, and pedestrians freeze against imminent collisions with man and vehicle. Easily overlooked in the frenetic human drama, however, is the retail landscape in which the tableau unfolds. Not simply background, the buildings framing the scene assert their own visual and textual presence, contributing firm and store names and advertised goods and services to the visual cacophony of the street. These are destinations, the places to which and from which people rush, animating the urban hustle and bustle. These buildings and businesses, as much as the people in the street, are characters in the composition of antebellum urban life.
In the middle of the illustration, around the corner from the American Museum and surrounded by jewelers, a shoe store, a sarsaparilla outlet, and a number of billiard rooms and manufacturers, hangs a small sign advertising “Cheap Books.” Though no name or number is appended to the sign, the 1860 New York City directory identifies this as Leggat Brothers, publishers and booksellers specializing in second-hand books.2 Sons of a prominent dry-goods dealer, Richard and Andrew Leggat were far from the only booksellers near the chaotic intersection of Fulton and Broadway. Two other bookstores occupied that block of Fulton Street; one block north, nine stores sold their books between Ann and Nassau Streets, where the rollicking tunes of the American Museum’s balcony band accompanied street and shop life. The nearby blocks on Nassau St. from John to Beekman Streets, [End Page 214] according to a later memoirist, were known as the “‘Rialto’ of the old books trade, and the place where book-hunters most did love to congregate.”3 And at 300 Broadway, just a few doors north of Fulton Street, William Radde ran his successful and well-known German Bookstore.4 The milling crowds at Broadway and Fulton—and spilling into the adjacent streets—encountered a number of bookstores along their daily commutes and travels.
By the mid-nineteenth century, New York City had surpassed Boston and Philadelphia as the literary locus of the nation. A confluence of technological publishing innovations, economic expansion, book trade specialization, and literary output during the antebellum years fueled a period of growth and experimentation in book retailing.5 The dedicated retail bookstore—a forerunner of today’s independent bookstore—emerged in this period. But to nineteenth-century New Yorkers, the term “bookstore” was capacious, encompassing not just stores engaged in both wholesale and retail trade but also businesses that published books and those that doubled as a circulating library or reading room.6 This expansiveness, this diversity, of what a bookstore could signify makes it a valuable site for tracking the institutionalization of the practices and value systems that constituted urban literary [End Page 215] cultures in antebellum America. In the spaces where people worked and wandered, browsed and bought, print culture acquired specific form and meaning.7 These bookstores—their locations and appearance, their stock and sales methods, as well as the people who operated them and the customers who patronized them—participated in and shaped local and national literary and print cultures. The booksellers, customers, and stores tell us about the textures of urban life in a rapidly expanding metropolis and the values and forms of a literary marketplace that sold more books to more people than ever before. If the overhead telegraph lines in the Harper’s illustration were threads in an emerging communications web and the cobblestones streets connected an urban transportation network, the city’s bookstores were hubs in the experiential grid of antebellum literary and social life.
The retail bookstore in America has remained largely invisible in literary and book histories, hidden in the critical shadow of the rise of the big-house publisher at mid-century.8 Despite historian Michael Winship’s assertion that the dedicated retail bookshop was “the most important site” for American trade books in the nineteenth century, it is also, he explains, one of the “least understood” aspects of the book trade.9 This elision is due in part to standards of evidence; formulations that use the nation and development over time as the primary variables for defining American print culture, as well as book history’s own roots in bibliography, emphasize official printed sources such as publishers’ lists, book imprints, and firm records. Resulting narratives, then, focus on the dominance of the publisher, narrating a temporal progression from a decentralized network of publisher-retailers and subscription trade in the eighteenth century—concentrated in the outsized iconic figure of Parson Weems—to a “national book distribution system” headed by the emergence of big-house publishers in the mid-nineteenth century in New York, Philadelphia, and Boston.10 These forms of evidence thus shape the stories of American book distribution.
Supplementing distribution studies built around exceptional individuals, print lists, or material texts, book histories devoted to book spaces can attend to the “real places” of print culture, exploring the relationships among local geographies, literary practices, and cultural production.11 Running parallel to the grand narratives of industry consolidation over time, mapping the stories of book spaces values the idiosyncratic, the diverse, the local. The big men of publishing take their place among the common, the mundane, the everyday. What might the locations of bookstores, for example—the streets they occupied, the trades they neighbored—tell us about the composition, practices, and experience of urban book culture? We know [End Page 216] the retail trade expanded in the nineteenth century—but in what patterns? In which directions? And with what consequences? What did bookstores look like, and how did customers use them?
In antebellum bookstores, the local textures of urban print culture were created, negotiated, and experienced at scale, in citywide patterns of growth and movement and in individual streets and stores. Mapping a geography of bookstores in New York City from 1820 to 1860 reveals a dynamic and unstable landscape in which the form and definition of a “bookstore” was fluid and open. Alongside their books, bookstores offered spaces for social interaction and opportunities to engage with urban life. To explore this environment, this essay pairs analysis of citywide patterns of bookstore growth and expansion with a case study of the retail stores of one successful nineteenth-century book firm, Appleton & Co. The entrepreneurial energy of antebellum book retailing propelled the exceptional success of Appleton & Co., founded in 1825. Appleton’s stores were discussed in newspapers and magazines, mentioned in diaries and narratives, and depicted in photos and illustrations, providing valuable evidence for the social life of a significant nineteenth-century urban bookstore. In two Appleton stores—one established in 1832, the other at mid-century—the redesigned built environments frame the complex exchange between the creation and communication of commercial and cultural forms and values. Appleton’s store at 200 Broadway in the 1830s and ’40s offered a book-heavy space for literary self-improvement; its new premises several blocks north in 1854, however, recast the bookstore as a performative social space of self-presentation, drawing simultaneously on the forms and claims of the commercial palace and the library. In this linking of civic aspirations and commerce, Appleton’s exposed the precarious—and sometimes paradoxical—values underlying the bookstore’s ideals of public engagement with print, an instability that continues to be both a threat to and an opportunity for todays bookstores.
I. Cultivating Multitudes
Arriving in New York City with his family in 1825, Daniel Appleton and his brother-in-law, Jonathan Leavitt, set up shop in Exchange Place, stocking their shelves with dry goods, British book imports, and a few secondhand titles.12 In autumn, the opening of the Erie Canal energized the streets around Appleton’s shop and fired the enthusiasm of the city’s merchants. Perhaps Appleton passed by the triumphant flotilla of decorated ships in the [End Page 217] Port of New York celebrating the canal’s opening on the chilly morning of November 4th. He almost certainly heard the pealing bells, cannon shot, and artillery fire that punctuated the day’s celebrations.13 From the doorway of his store in Exchange Place, just behind the Custom House and remembered by his son as a thoroughfare to the fashionable life around the Battery and Bowling Green, Appleton, characteristically dressed in a brightly-buttoned blue coat, light buff vest, and blue pants, may have observed the procession parading from the Battery to City Hall. On hand for a defining moment in the city’s economic and cultural history, the “ruddy-faced New Englander”—ever after a New Yorker—would materially benefit from the capital and trade carried on the waters of the canal.14
Though humble in origin, the book section of Leavitt and Appleton’s store on Exchange Place prospered. Upon an amicable split in 1830, each carried half of their book stock to new stores—Leavitt northwest to John Street and Broadway, Appleton a bit further north to the newly constructed Clinton Hall at the corner of Nassau and Beekman Streets, where he joined a healthy bookselling community.15 Continuing a trend from the previous decade, over half of the city’s bookstores in 1830, including Appleton’s, were concentrated in the first and second wards—north along the west side from the tip of Manhattan to Peck Slip—and along Broadway at the dividing line between the second and third wards—the location of that later riotous snow scene in Harper’s (Figure 2).16 In 1820, these areas housed a third of Manhattan residents, but only twenty percent in 1830, reflecting the larger nineteenth-century pattern of residential movement uptown and concentrating trade and manufacturing downtown. The second ward, north from Maiden Lane to Peck Slip and west to Broadway, would remain a bookselling locus throughout the antebellum years, containing the highest number of stores in any given ward and hovering around one third of the city’s total retail book outlets.
In 1833, Appleton followed the retail district to Broadway, relocating from the “unpretending plain” store in Clinton Hall to a common three-story, gable-roof structure at 200 Broadway, between Fulton and John Streets.17 By the 1840s, the firm was one of the largest in the city, having extended its publishing activities into religious tracts, children’s books, educational texts, reference works, science and philosophy, Spanish-language works, as well as some novels, while continuing to publish and import English books. The firm also continued to enlarge its “well-stocked” retail store, which included foreign and domestic titles as well as the products of other New York and American publishers.18 Originally sized at twenty-two feet wide [End Page 218]
[End Page 219]
by fifty feet deep, Appleton’s new bookstore at 200 Broadway, a location he would occupy for the next twenty years, expanded within a few years of its opening and by 1840 was lauded as the largest bookstore in the city.19
Appleton joined eighteen other book outlets stretching from Wall Street north to just beyond Canal Street along the main urban artery of Broadway. Jonathan Leavitt, Daniel Appleton’s old partner, operated his retail establishment just below at 182 Broadway and booksellers Bliss & Wadsworth just a few doors north at number 205. A variety of retailers and tradesmen operated alongside these bookstores; depicted in the 1848 Illuminated Pictorial Directory, D. Appleton & Co.—the name adopted for the book firm in 1838 with the addition of son William Henry Appleton as a partner—shared the block with a tailor and clothes retailer, a billiard saloon, a hatter, Allen & Thurber’s Guns and Pistols depot, Brady’s Daguerrian Gallery, as well as an engraver and several other book firms.20 This diverse and prosperous commercial space, “organized around the ground-level meeting of entrepreneurs, customers, and suppliers in sales rooms, showrooms, and counting rooms,” was typical for Broadway at the time. Along city streets, the ubiquitous row house contained, in addition to small firms on the ground floor, storage, workshops, and other trades on its upper floors.21
Three years after Appleton opened his Broadway store, in March of 1836, an early morning fire raced through the 200 block of Hudson Street, about a mile northwest. The next day’s edition of the New York Mercury listed the damages.
No. 257, two story wooden building, occupied by Wm. Applegate, as a printing office, bookstore and bindery. Building destroyed, with most of its contents.
No. 259, two story frame house, occupied by E. Blank, as a chair and blind factory. Building entirely destroyed, most of the property saved.
No. 261, two story frame, occupied by R. Grant as a paint shop and dwelling. Property partly saved.22
In this area of the fifth ward, as in other locations across the city, factories and retail establishments operated side by side, and in the case of Apple-gate’s bookstore and bindery, in the same building. Proprietors still lived on the floors above their shops. The artisan arrangements of the previous century quite literally shared a wall with the practices of industrialization. And while Appleton on Broadway, in his eighth year, was building what would become an exceptionally successful bookselling firm, Applegate’s [End Page 220] ephemeral presence on Hudson Street is more representative of antebellum bookstores in general. Between 1820 and 1860, one-half to two-thirds of Manhattan’s booksellers closed shop within five years of opening. Countless others moved from street to street, often on a yearly basis, even with long-lived bookstores. City directories can’t explain why booksellers fled, but they can offer intriguing glimpses of what they fled to. Reuben Hollister, a bookseller for one year in 1835, turned successively to groceries and umbrellas. Thomas Heath also donned the grocer’s apron after one year as a bookseller. Swain’s Panacea seduced Peter Myers from the bookselling business in 1825, and baskets seemed a better bet to James Cole after one year as a bookseller. Clark Dunning dabbled in bookselling in 1831 before redirecting his attention to liquors and straw goods.23 The opening and closing of stores during Appleton’s first year of business at 200 Broadway also reveals a dynamic, fluid bookselling landscape. The 1834 city directory lists over 120 operating retail book outlets—eighteen more than the previous year. Fifty-two of these stores, or over forty percent, were in new locations, over half of which in turn were opened by booksellers just entering the business or new partnerships opening in a new location.
Among these newcomers to bookselling in 1834 was David Ruggles, a twenty-four-year-old African-American anti-slavery activist and the nation’s first black bookstore proprietor. Previously a mariner and butter merchant, Ruggles advertised his “Anti-Slavery Book Store” as a crucial locus for the early abolitionist movement. Locating the bookstore at 67 Lispenard Street, near the corner of Broadway and a few doors down from his home, gave Ruggles strategic access to the large free black communities nearby in the fifth and sixth wards. In addition to retailing and wholesaling anti-slavery publications, an 1834 notice in The Liberator advertises school books, stationery, letterpress and job printing, book binding, and picture framing.24 Ruggles established his bookstore as a political space for anti-slavery activism, a literary space for black authorship and writing, and a social space to incorporate black and white New Yorkers in a dialogue on slavery and abolition.25 These efforts earned a violent backlash. In a brutal irony, an arsonist, inflamed by newspaper notices labeling Ruggles’ store an “incendiary depot,” burned the bookstore in September of 1835.26 Though erased from the physical map of New York City, the “Anti-Slavery Bookstore” demonstrated how bookstores could both work within and help shape social geographies of the antebellum city.
A couple years later, just a few days after the New Year in 1837, adolescent George Templeton Strong—future lawyer, city elite, and famous [End Page 221] diarist—made one of his regular stops in Appleton’s bookstore, a significant landmark in Strong’s own personal geography. But unable to locate an edition of Romantic writer Robert Southey’s poems at Appleton’s, Strong resigned himself “as a last resort” to enter “that rascally citadel of humbug, [W.A.] Colman’s, though I had made up my mind not to enter that place again.”27 Dismissing Colman as an “inveterate puffer,” young Strong had complained the previous year that the bookseller would “lie in defense of his own books till he’s black in the face.”28 Whether dishonest rascal or dedicated salesman, William Colman’s propensity for puff points to the increasing competition he faced as the number of bookstores in the city steadily increased during the antebellum years. For Strong, though Colman’s was just doors from Appleton’s bookstore on Broadway, it is plotted in a very different perceptual geography.
Appleton’s was, for Strong, a significant space for social and intellectual self-cultivation.29 In his social landscape featuring street processions and pleasure gardens, church services and college classrooms, and lecture halls and sensational courtroom trials, Strong’s specific book geography was comprised of a variety of formal and informal spaces that fostered his appreciation of the book as both a material artifact and intellectual boon. In addition to Columbia University, Appleton’s bookstore is one of the most frequently named places in the first year of his diary. In fact, not long after the rather precocious fifteen-year-old vowed to keep a daily diary, he happened upon a copy of John Evelyn’s Diary at Appleton’s one afternoon, “which struck [his] fancy exceedingly.”30 A few months later he purchased the book and eagerly devoured its scenes of seventeenth-century life, literature, and manners. Perhaps Strong’s own dedication to the self-actualizing genre of the diary and his detailed chronicle of nineteenth-century urban life was inspired by an afternoon discovery on a bookstore’s shelf. As a collection of uniform blank-books in and through which Strong wrote versions of his self into being, his diary—being, ultimately, another form of map—traces an intellectual and social geography through New York City bookstores.
Though Strong, because of his wealth and social standing, was not a typical New Yorker, his record of bookstore visits nevertheless offers insights into the range of interactions that occurred inside bookstores and highlights the role of Appleton’s in particular in enabling his self-fashioning project. On a March afternoon in 1836, Strong leisurely explored Apple-ton’s bookstore, discovering a treasure in seven quarto volumes of William Robertson’s works—“the cheapest book that ever came within my reach. … I must have it by all means.”31 Strong perused shelves, tables, and piles [End Page 222] of books for likely additions to his library, developing expertise in valuing books and enhancing his vocabulary of bibliographic description. Examining a Second Folio edition of Shakespeare, “something worth seeing,” Strong was disappointed to find “two leaves wanting at the end and the title page,” and objected to Appleton’s stated price.32 When looking for a specific book, he would try Appleton’s first, then move to other bookshops. Appleton’s might come to him as well. One November day in 1836, Strong examined some annuals and a volume of Bernard de Montfaucon on Greek writing sent down “for inspection” by Appleton.33 Strong read widely and voraciously, combining an affinity for Greek and languages with history, science, philology, and theology. He nurtured a romantic inclination, purchasing Byron and Wordsworth editions from bookstores.34 As a material source for Strong’s own growing book collection, Appleton’s bookstore intimately connected the gentleman’s library and its eighteenth-century Enlightenment ideals of improvement and individual authority to the economic market for goods.35 A space of desire and aspiration, the bookstore offered Strong the materials—the “means”—to build his library and fashion himself into a book collector, urban intellectual, and elite New Yorker.
But more than a material source for his collection, the bookstore in general and Appleton’s in particular was an intimate social space for association and conversation—a space for the cultivation of social relationships and leisure interests. In March of 1836, Strong visited the bookstore on a weekly basis; over the course of the year, he recorded no less than seventeen visits in his diary.36 Often introduced by the phrase “stopped at Appleton’s,” these visits to the bookstore are given the flavor of habit.37 On these many visits, Strong sought out more than books. A set of coins owned by one of the store’s clerks was a source of much discussion and no small degree of covetousness in the winter of 1836.38 During the famous and somewhat salacious 1844 court case of Bishop Benjamin Onderdonk, on trial for “immoralities and impurities,” Appleton’s served as a space for Strong and others to update, gossip, and opine.39 More than a book outlet, Appleton’s store participated in an intellectual and social leisure market, through which the adolescent Strong cultivated his membership in a learned social elite.
The very physical space of Appleton & Co. affected these markets—and Strong’s participation in them. In the diary entries that reference the bookstore, Strong maintains a focus on the goods—on the books—that drew his attention rather than the space of the bookstore itself, with one notable exception. After a morning visit to the bookstore in early November of 1836, Strong noted Appleton’s recent renovations: [End Page 223]
[Appleton] has had his store expanded so that the Old Books, instead of being literally crammed upstairs, will be provided with some sort of decent accommodations below. It is a very good plan, for they were afraid the floor would break through, and moreover it was scarcely possible to navigate upstairs for the folios that were heaped up in piles six or eight feet high.40
The bookstore materializes in Strong’s diary at the moment that its space is threatened (and threatening), risking collapse under the weight of its own stock. These books do not simply occupy space; they act upon it, demanding accommodation and proscribing mobility. More than simply a retail space, the bookstore is a stage for what historian Ronald Zboray terms “the little theater of literary culture.”41 And the bookseller functions as a kind of set designer. Retailers stage their spaces to create a framework of consumption in which the organization of stock, its display spaces, and the paths of access guide consumer engagement in the store.42 Practices, in other words, are inscribed in space.43 Thus, we can read the built environment of the bookstore as a palimpsest of practice, as a series of layered scripts that reveal desired values and ideals.
In at least two—though likely more—Appleton titles from 1845 to 1847, an image of a bookstore interior appeared in inserted publisher’s advertisements (Figure 3).44 The image literally introduces the catalogue and its listings and figuratively invites the reader into the space of the bookstore to browse. In this and other visual representations of the bookstore, real and idealized space converge. Images of bookstore interiors, appearing in catalogues, on the backs of books, in newspapers and periodicals, and inserted as advertisements inside texts, offered a view of the bookstore designed to connect to and resonate with customers and lured both local and distant mail-order readers into a simultaneously real and imagined consumer and social space. When, in 1843, Elizabeth Pierce glanced out her hotel window after a long journey to Concord, New Hampshire, she “recognized immediately the bookstore of John F. Brown, with wh[om] I had long been familiar, as engraven upon the cover of my pocket Almanack.… It seemed like an old friend.”45 Though booksellers had a vested interest in accurately portraying their store in their marketing materials—befriending customers like Ms. Pierce and rendering their storefronts recognizable—it hasn’t been possible to confirm this image as specifically that of Appleton’s 200 Broadway bookstore. Nevertheless, by attaching this image to multiple firm publications, Appleton’s ties it to their bookstore. Less important than its documentary accuracy is its symbolic effect. This is what you should imagine [End Page 224] the bookstore to look like, the image suggests. The viewer-reader might shop alongside imagined customers, selecting listed titles from their places on the bookshelves, stepping lightly around the books piled knee-high on the floor, a wealth of choice and opportunity. Not wholly prescriptive, these “retail-scapes,” to use historian Joanna Cohen’s term, nevertheless model behaviors. By inviting the viewer into the scene through shopping in the catalogue, the image bridges the space between scene and spectator.46 A purchase from the store would secure the viewer’s own place in the scene and in an imaginative literary community.47
Offering a glimpse into the true “interior” of Appleton’s bookstore—into, that is, its symbolic and ideological space—this image depicts a functional space in which the architectural aesthetic is defined by and dominated by books—not by their buying and selling, but by their display and reading. Books stretch the side and top margins; they are stacked vertically and [End Page 225] horizontally on open floor-to-ceiling bookshelves lining the two side walls, available for browsing on an open floor display case labeled “New English Books,” and piled on multiple tables. A seated individual with idly crossed legs may be a patron leisurely perusing a book or perhaps a reposing clerk, lounging in a space as much salon as salesroom. In this bookstore image, patronage is depicted as a personal literary act rather than a commercial one. The sales desk is a vague backgrounded element, relegated to the far back room and isolated from the customers. Though the upper shelves of the bookcases would be inaccessible to patrons, many of the books—on lower shelves, decorated tables, and the long center case—are within reach, encouraging individual agency in navigating the bookstore and cultivating literary interests. Each of the customers, with book in hand, seems driven by leisure; the books on the display tables and those on the long case of “New English Books” are available to be discovered, flipped through, and sampled—behaviors endorsed by this illustration and confirmed by George Templeton Strong’s own narrated experiences.
Though a singular focus on bookstore space erupts only once in his diary—to exclaim over those towering folio piles upstairs—Strong offers glimpses of the spatial scripts encoded in Appleton’s 200 Broadway store. Indeed, for Strong, Appleton’s bookstore, both its interior space and his own movements through that space, was organized by a logic of discovery (or disappointed discovery). On a mid-June day in 1839, Strong “noticed a gigantic basket full” of old books, but after exploring this basket, pronounced them all “sad trash.”48 For the edition of Southey’s poems, Strong “hunted for a good while” among Appleton’s shelves.49 The operative verbs “noticed” and “hunted””—calling to mind an accidental, wandering, and uncertain search—describe a space in flux, one composed of new, secondhand, and rare books, as well as a stock organization not quickly or decisively navigated. There was always something new to see, whether in cases, baskets, or on shelves. Indeed, Strong rushed to Appleton’s one afternoon in April, 1836 to “look at [Appleton’s] seventeen cases of old books just arrived.”50 Zboray’s analysis of the internal arrangement of a bookstore just down the street from Appleton’s at this time concludes that the logic of organization created an “illusion of serendipity” whereby booksellers and readers engaged in a choreographed dance measured by a leisurely perusal of books.51 For Strong, inspecting new baskets of books (even if they were “sad trash”) became a pleasurable browsing activity, while a search for a specific title could be more time consuming and frustrating.52 Yet whether he “noticed,” “hunted,” “saw,” or “examined” books, Strong’s diary descriptions [End Page 226] of bookstore visits also reveal the active work of the patron in browsing and buying. Certainly, Appleton and his clerks likely pulled titles with potential appeal to deep-pocketed young Strong. In this way, the bookstore acted as a display and exhibition space curated by the bookseller. But just as often, Strong’s visits to the 200 Broadway store were self-directed explorations of an ever-changing book landscape.
Functioning in a mixed-use commercial environment and best characterized an intimate social space privileging self-cultivation and discovery, Appleton’s 200 Broadway bookstore suggests a version of literary culture in the first half of the nineteenth century defined by local networks of proximity, cultivated and given shape by the individual reader.53 For George Templeton Strong, Appleton’s bookstore was physically located between his home and Columbia University.54 “On the way” in Strong’s daily perambulations between his home and school, Appleton’s is also a waypoint in his intellectual and social self-realization.55 The frequency of references to Appleton’s decreases when Strong enters his father’s law practice in 1838, perhaps due to the office’s location on Wall Street—a shift southward in his walking geography—or perhaps due to a shift in Strong’s reading practices—more law, less leisure. Or perhaps Appleton’s bookstore, along with mention of bookstores in general, disappears from Strong’s diary simply because it has fulfilled its purpose. As a lifelong book collector and bibliophile, Strong certainly continued to wander the shelves and hunt the baskets of local booksellers. Rather, the elision of the bookstore in his diary may be a product of its naturalization in his identity; he no longer mentions the bookstore because it’s no longer novel or noteworthy. For Strong, Appleton’s was, for a time during his adolescence, a space for exploring not only books but his own character as well. In the bookstore he forged his relationship to a literary book culture based in local networks and promoting—through its physical space—autonomy and individual choice. This vision of retail book culture would be dramatically revised in Appleton’s next store.
II. Remodeling the Reader
Despite the book-heavy space described in George Templeton Strong’s diary and depicted in the 1847 catalogue image, bookstores throughout the antebellum period sold a wide variety of goods, linking the book market to larger commodity, entertainment, and leisure markets. The bookstore acted as a gateway to urban life more generally. Lecture tickets on topics such as [End Page 227] architecture, natural history, and phrenology were sold at bookstore counters, and works of fine art were displayed on its floors and in its windows.56 These offerings not only lured potential book buyers through the doors, they provided Manhattanites the opportunity to engage with the intellectual and social life of the city. Memorists and newspapers identified certain bookstores as literary resorts and social gathering places. Bookstores also facilitated the energetic nineteenth-century reform culture by providing information and donation points for charitable organizations and philanthropic societies. One might find the terms of the Boarding School for Young Ladies in Ridgefield, Connecticut, at Mahlon Day’s Juvenile bookstore, or a copy of the constitution for the Colored Orphan Asylum in Roe Lockwood’s bookstore, where donations might also be deposited. Or one might drop off clothing, furniture, or book donations benefitting the Delavan Temperance Institute at the bookstore of Dayton & Newman.57 Though perhaps not as overt as David Ruggles’ “Anti-Slavery Bookstore,” these philanthropic activities nevertheless reveal how bookstores waded into political and activist causes.
If the bookstore was a central hub in networks of urban culture, it was also a convenient depot for a surprising variety of actual things. To antebellum New Yorkers, a “bookstore” meant more than a store of books; here, one was often as likely to find materials to maintain the body as to cultivate the mind. Homer Franklin, neighbor of Appleton’s 200 Broadway store, included a variety of dry goods in his 1840–41 stock inventories: razor straps, shaving soaps, wallets, clothes, toothbrushes.58 On a hot night in August of 1835, a thief absconded with pocket and penknives and letter stamps from Kyle Thomas’s bookstore on Hammond Street.59 Indeed, “bookstore” in the antebellum years could connote any number of available products—related items like stationery, blank books, and stamps, of course, but also goods that met local customer demand. William Bartow, who serviced the water-front shipping trade in stores on Pearl Street and Burling Slip, records in his Daybook from 1825 to 1835 sales to ship captains that include novels, story books, and stationery merchandise like paper, wax, and quills.60 But he also supplied his customers with general goods for sailors’ use or sales abroad, including razor straps and ivory combs, as well as specialty items like ivory scales and looking glasses.61 The Blunts sold chronometers and other nautical instruments out of their bookstore on Water Street in 1860. William Radde, importer of German books, also acted as the “sole agent for the Leipzig central homeopathic pharmacy.”62 And Appleton’s—in what would underscore the firm’s own increasing investment in visual experience—displayed [End Page 228] original art and devoted a prominent section of their new mid-century store to stereoscopic pictures and views.63
In 1854, D. Appleton & Co. followed the general retailing migration north and relocated to 346–348 Broadway between Leonard Street and Catharine Lane, taking over the prominent Greek Revival building built a few years earlier for the Society Library.64 Appleton’s continued presence on Broadway was a part of one spatial pattern in antebellum New York’s retail book landscape. “Bookstores are planting themselves rapidly on Broadway,” wrote Walt Whitman in an 1856 prose ode to “Broadway, the Magnificent:”
Here we see whole libraries in the windows, sometimes a book opened at an illustration; here a row of curious imported books …; here again costly pictorial works, atlases, books of antiquities and so on.”65
This germination of Broadway bookstores, in fact, began some thirty years before. A location map of bookstores in 1820 depicts Pearl Street as the most prominent bookselling corridor, moving northwest to Broadway and north from Wall Street to Fulton Street (Figure 4). Walking along Pearl Street in 1820, one would encounter at least thirteen bookshops.66 A similar walk along Broadway would bring the passerby into contact with ten stores.67 Yet over the next decade, bookstores made a notable migration toward Broadway, highlighting the retail book trade’s participation, or even perhaps, its lead in the development of this urban retail artery. By 1830, a few years before Appleton opened his store at 200 Broadway, the city’s broader bookselling geography had shifted to Broadway, with twenty-four stores in the immediate vicinity compared to eight on or near Pearl Street.68 (fig. 5). Throughout the antebellum period, the percentage of New York City’s Broadway bookstores hovered between fifteen and twenty percent of the total number of operating bookstores.
If the image of 200 Broadway, Appleton’s house from 1833 to 1854, gestures toward a vision of book culture informed by eighteenth-century values and social spaces as well as retail trade in a horizontal, mixed-use commercial landscape, the bookstore’s new location invokes an alternative model of cultural and commercial authority, one drawing simultaneously upon the forms and functions of a civic institution and a commercial palace. Advertisements anticipating Appleton’s move to 346–8 Broadway reveal an intentional spatial strategy for this new store, describing extensive renovations to the interior, including a new basement, attic, and new floors—“so [End Page 229]
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completely remodeled [… so as] to make this a new building.”69 An engraving of the interior of the new store was introduced to readers nationwide in a June 1854 edition of Gleason’s Pictorial Drawing-Room Companion.70 Also appearing as a stand-alone advertisement for the bookstore in John Chapin’s 1856 Historical Picture Gallery or, Scenes and Incidents in American History, the image depicts a massive, ornate room dedicated as much to show as to the books on display (Figure 6).71 Described to be sixty by one hundred feet, this new store was twice as long and three times as wide as the previous space.72 Appleton was accused of having “sunk the shop” and was widely celebrated for “being as remarkable in its interior architecture and decoration as for convenience and amplitude.”73 Claimed to be “the largest room (without obstructions) in New York,” the bookstore’s expansive, uninterrupted sight lines encouraged a dwarfing, rather than intimate, effect.74 The salesroom image features fourteen Corinthian columns “in imitation of Sienna marble,” decorative frescos, detailed moldings, and prominent ceiling medallions. Classical Roman arches bound the space, and high alcoves [End Page 232] frame figure busts. “Artistic effect,” the Gleason’s writer effuses, “has been studied” to excellent results in the bookstore’s design, and the New York Evangelist praises it as “fitted up with just the taste and neatness demanded by the associations of good books.”75 The architecture and design attracts conspicuous attention to itself rather than to the goods it houses. Books dominated space in the image of 200 Broadway; here, the architecture overwhelms the books. Vocabulary of architecture and design, evident in detailed descriptions of dimension measurements, structural elements, and decorative features, here structures conceptions of literary culture as well. This is no peddler’s cart of cheap literature. This space holds not just the material weight, but the symbolic heft of these books.
From the start, city commentators downplayed the “business of profit” by discussing the bookstore in the context of a library.76 Before 1840, many New York City booksellers had identified their business as both bookstore and library, evincing a material connection between borrowing and buying books.77 Even as bookstores focused more exclusively on selling books, the design connection to libraries remained; Willis Hazard’s new 1855 Philadelphia bookstore, “the handsomest and most conveniently arranged bookstore in the country, always excepting the palatial one of the Messers. Appleton, in New York,” was modeled on “the feeling of a quiet, comfortable and rich library” with accessible shelves, available seating, and only one small sale counter.78 The Appleton building’s previous tenant, the Society Library, also colored the description of Appleton’s new, “palatial,” nationally recognized store. “The bookshelves of the Appletons,” assured one reporter, “we consider no unhappy continuation of the old library that preceded them.”79 Customers in the bookstore might have remembered the Library’s popular lecture series held in a large ground-floor auditorium, where crowds of up to four hundred people crowded in to hear authors like Ralph Waldo Emerson and Edgar Allen Poe or performers such as Fanny Kemble and the popular magician Signor Blitz.80 Descriptions of the Society Library’s interior suggest that Appleton’s own bookroom, despite claims of transformative renovations, retained a similar floor plan to that of the former reading room.81 The firm further leveraged this library association by divorcing the logistics of commerce, including delivery, warehouses, and printing from the sales showroom. In New York’s alleyless streets, then as now, deliveries coming and going shared space with all other street and sidewalk traffic, and the functions of printing, publishing, and storage were typically conducted in the same building. Appleton’s assigned their printing and warehousing to separate buildings, and the new location between Catherine Lane and Leonard [End Page 233] Street allowed for concealing deliveries and other commercial functions of the store in side lanes.82 Describing the store as “fitted up in library style,” the Home Journal disavowed commerce altogether by wondering “if a store it may be called.”83
The exterior of the new Appleton’s store also capitalized on the legacy and associations of the old Society Library. The 1839 Greek Revival building—“looking like a Roman temple”—gave physical form to the Society Library’s civic mission (Figure 7).84 Ionic columns emphasized the vertical, suggesting a complementary project of intellectual uplift. Its “signs of antiquity” and “imposing effect” lent the building cultural and visual authority.85 The Greek Revival style visually and symbolically connect the Society Library with prominent civic institutions housed in similar buildings (such as Federal Hall on Wall Street, built for the United States Custom House in 1842). In designing a building in the dominant mode of civic architecture, the trustees of the Society Library sought to align their institution with those intended to represent and shape the interests of the citizenry.
And upon assuming ownership, Appleton’s heightened this association. The firm installed Henry Kirke Brown’s large bas-relief of Plato and His Pupils above the exterior entryway, simultaneously supporting American art and announcing the firm’s dedication to knowledge and education.86 Further signaling civic ambitions, in 1857 the bookstore reconfigured and expanded the upper floors to accommodate artists’ studios and exhibition space (and presumably, added rents). And departing from the widespread practice of plastering commercial buildings in signs and posters—obscuring the physical structure itself and creating what one city visitor declared an indiscriminant visual “glare”—an 1854 photograph of Appleton’s reveals a relatively clean exterior (Figure 8).87 Captured by early photographer Victor Prevost, who operated a studio nearby, the image depicts a few unobtrusive window signs adorning the uppermost floor and the windows of the ground floor.88 The building as a whole, however, remains remarkably bare. Its one glaring emendation is the word “APPLETON,” affixed in marble-like lettering to the previously blank entablature. More a brand than a sign, this addition manifests what historian David Henkin has termed the “monumental architecture of the written word” and names the building before the business.89 Appleton’s Bookstore, in claiming a material presence as a structure in the city landscape, also lays claim to an institutional identity. And more than a sight for New Yorkers to marvel over, images of this branded building as well as reports detailing its design would reach distant readers in the pages of periodicals and in advertisements in the firm’s publications.90 By [End Page 234] layering commerce over the civic form of the library—a bookstore in the old library, a commercial brand atop a classical form—the newly christened building asserts commerce as a civic duty.
Yet Appleton’s new store at Broadway and Leonard Street—a constituent of an ideological and material civic architecture—also took part in an alternative spatial paradigm: the midcentury development of the commercial retail palace. In 1854, Harper’s Monthly remarked upon the physical transformation of lower Broadway into a “street of palaces.”91 A few years before and just a few blocks south of the Society Library, A.T. Stewart opened his famous “Marble Palace” department store in 1848, soon widely recognized and celebrated as the modern face of retailing.92 Indeed, amid all the panegyrics to Appleton’s ornate interior architecture and the evident resistance to the effects of commerce, evidence of Appleton’s retailing identity gleam from its bookshelves. “Of editions de luxe their shelves and counters are full,” gushed the New York Observer and Chronicle, “books which in every style and every subject combine intrinsic worth with elegance.”93 Of special [End Page 235]
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interest to a correspondent is a “collection of twenty-five different and choice editions of Shakespeare, each clothed in a garb of morocco or calf well worthy of the noble thoughts which they enshrine.”94 William Cullen Bryant’s Poems, first published by D. Appleton & Co. in 1855, was available in cloth, cloth with gilt, and antique morocco in a one-volume octavo or in a six-inch-tall sextodecimo format as well as in a two-volume duodecimo.95 Just three years later Appleton’s produced a new two-volume duodecimo edition bound in cloth, extra cloth with gilt edges, morocco antique or extra, half-morocco gilt, half-calf leather antique or extra, full-calf antique or extra and a one-volume edition covered in cloth with or without gilt edges or in antique morocco.96 Though Appleton’s probably did not consistently stock every binding variation of Bryant’s Poems in the store, it is likely that these bindings, covering other books as samples or as sale-ready items, did appear among the more common brown, blue, and green cloth covers and gilt-decorated spines popular at mid-century.97 Certainly, the different bindings on display announce the mercantile intentions of the bookstore and combined with the ornate interior, assert the quality of goods for sale as a marketing and branding strategy. But more than that, the descriptions of the “editions de luxe” and other publications on the bookstore’s shelves combine the moral improvement discourse of the library—the books’ “intrinsic worth” and “noble thoughts”—with the commercial imperatives of taste and fashion that encase the books and undergird an emerging mass market consumer base. More than an emporium of literature, Appleton’s interior was a rich display space for books as aesthetic objects.
Not everyone in the book business welcomed Appleton’s overt commerciality. In his 1848 catalogue, Nassau Street bookseller John Doyle complained that “American booksellers … have looked more to the appearance of their stock than to its quality; content if they could realize large profits from gilded trash.” Doyle would want customers to judge a book by its cover. In an inversion of value, the material richness accumulated in gold leaf and intricate stamping hides an impoverished text. Emphasizing the “literary” as a type of book-consumer immune to—or at least indifferent to—such gaudiness, his second-hand books were for “literary persons” and “literary pursuits.” Doyle calculated that used books would “advance the cause of literature and science” by allowing the book buyer to buy more books with less money.98 The true value of the book, then, is in the intellectual return found in its pages, and the second-hand bookstore the storehouse of this wealth. Though Doyle’s establishment never grew to the size, prestige, or reach of Appleton’s, his critique highlights a rivalry between diverging [End Page 237] ideas of a book’s value—costly commodity or, for Doyle, intellectual investment—with a local spatial dimension: Broadway books vs. Nassau Street books.99
In 1850, just a few years before the opening of Appleton’s Broadway store, John Doyle occupied a large and notable cluster of bookstores in the city—an alternative to the Broadway commercial paradigm and spatial logic.100 His “cheap ancient & modern book store” stood—in some modest self-promotion—at “the moral centre of the intellectual world.”101 His block of Nassau Street between Beekman and Spruce Streets hosted eight bookstores, seven of which were practically abutting, including the long-lasting law bookstore of Banks, Gould, & Co. and Justus Redfield’s “Clinton Hall Bookstore.” Second-hand bookseller Calvin Blanchard was located a few blocks below on Nassau, and on the southwest corner of Fulton and Nassau Streets, John Bradburn dealt in second-hand law, theological, and medical books in a “dingy, contracted” storefront.102 In total, eighteen bookstores sold their goods on or near Nassau Street in 1850, marking it a significant bookselling artery (Figure 9). The proximity of so many bookstores—many second-hand, some specializing in law or medical books—promoted an intellectual and communication community wherein booksellers shared news, business information, even perhaps material resources, as well as espousing a retail strategy encouraging customers to visit a single geographic location in search of a product.103 By the late 1870s, place had become a metonymic stand-in for product when Herman Melville promised his cousin he’d look out for a specific edition of Chaucer “at the Nassau St prices.”104 Booksellers like Doyle, emphasizing the book as a text, promoted a conceptualization of literary culture based on the acquisition of knowledge and intellectual and professional self-improvement.
If “Nassau St prices” connoted one type of book market, “Broadway books” conjured an alternative market calculated in aesthetic and commodity values. That at any given time during the antebellum years near twenty percent of the city’s bookstores were located along this recognizable artery, a national symbol of developing consumerism, indicates a spatial dimension to the historical emergence of marketing books as mass-market goods. In an emergent commercial genre in city newspapers, the holiday geography was a sort of textual counterpart to today’s voluminous advertising inserts and a strategy to market the fancy bindings, illustrated children’s toys, and gift books that were issued en masse for gift-giving.. Though some editors chose the direct approach in titles like, “The Christmas Holidays; What there is to purchase and Where it may be found” and “Holiday Goods. What to Buy [End Page 238] and Where to Find It,” others couched these article-advertisements in yulethemed fiction, such as The New York Tribune’s “The Milledoler Family and How They Spent Their Christmas”—with no small degree of eye-winking over the pun on “spent.”105 The holiday geographies listing bookstores and titles for sale emphasize the book as commodity while also highlighting the centrality of Broadway booksellers in this growing annual celebration of consumption. In so doing, they register associations of bookstore location with deeper meanings assigned to place.106
The bookstore, whether on Broadway or Nassau (or indeed, in any of its many locations across the city) thus offers a stage upon which specific values of taste and patterns of social distinction are plotted and enacted.107 Books, already imbued with cultural significance by nature of their content, further accrue meaning within the material and symbolic space of a bookstore. Functioning within an economic geography, Appleton’s Broadway store is simultaneously a material space for the exchange of commodities, and a symbolic space where those same goods and exchanges are given meaning.108 If their bookstore is, as one newspaper writer declared, a “dangerous [End Page 239] place for poor scholars and men with full heads and empty pockets,” it is because without the coin to buy a book, the “poor” patron is also denied purchase in the cultural economy practiced in Appleton’s bookstore.109 For this commentator, Appleton’s new store has pitched itself not to the earnestly studious or thinking men “with full heads,” but rather—gesturing toward a different version of the “literary”—to those with deep pockets who enjoy books as costly aesthetic or display objects. Appleton’s new bookstore, melding the civic mission of a library with the commercial imperatives of a business in the material space of the store, commodifies civic duty in the form of a book. This material, spatial, and rhetorical exchange between commercial and civic values in Appleton’s midcentury store promoted an urban entrepreneurial literary practice whereby book buying, and the spaces where that happened, might be converted into cultural capital.
This linking of material goods with social values, however, causes a crisis of representation for the bookstore in those descriptions aligning Appleton’s with the form and mission of a civic institution. The Home Journal first signaled a categorical confusion by noting the “library style” of Appleton’s while wondering if it could even be “called” a “store.” A Gleason’s correspondent stumbles in his assessment, characterizing Appleton’s as “a bookstore which is converted at once from a mere wareroom into a costly free public library.”110 The rhetoric used by the newspapers turns on the transition from bookspace—that generic “wareroom”—to a new form of literary institution, the ambiguous “costly free public library.” The bookstore-as-library is a common enough comparison, as we’ve seen. But the layered qualifiers ultimately betray the search for a vocabulary to describe books as simultaneously commodities and cultural productions, and the bookstore as both shop and civic institution. The exclusive “costly” situates value either in the aesthetic, object-appeal of the books or in the grand showroom design of the store, while the subsequent descriptors “free” and “public” emphasize an inclusive access to space over access to books. In theory, anyone might enter Appleton’s store and browse its shelves though many would be priced out of buying a book.111 The oxymoron of a “costly free public library” with its contradictory and unstable valuations underscores the struggle to articulate the identity and social role of the urban bookstore at midcentury. It is at once a library and a not-library, a business and a not-business.
While contemporary observers struggled to articulate the work of Appleton’s midcentury bookstore, the image of the bookstore’s interior ultimately undermines the commercial and civic imperative to buy a book, suggesting instead that social performance in the bookstore might be the key [End Page 240] grammar. If those customers in Appleton’s 200 Broadway store, including George Templeton Strong, consulted their own interests in the illustration of a sparsely populated, book-crowded store, those shopping after 1854 in the new store participated in a much more public performance. The interior image of 346 Broadway relocates the backgrounded clerk of 200 Broadway to the foreground, presiding over patron activity in an elevated lectern-type structure (Figuure 7). Greeting customers entering from the right, this clerk—as facilitator and surveyor—functions more socially than commercially. The broad, open space of the room and his elevated position allow a casual survey (or surveillance) of the store. Customers continue to browse the shelves and displays, though only two patrons out of a dozen pictured have a book in hand. The store itself—rather than its books—is depicted as an experience, a destination.
With the store as focal point, book culture in Appleton’s new store is based in aesthetic appreciation and social interaction. The sharp outlines of the books on the shelves at 200 Broadway are instead employed here to outline and dimensionalize the patrons. Disregarding the bookshelves behind them, two gentlemen engage in conversation; a couple walking arm-in-arm wander towards a far row of books, as likely to be observing the decorative busts as the books. A mother, seated in a chair in the ample floor space, reads to her child, carving a domestic pedagogical space within the walls of the bookstore. The young boy accompanying his parents gestures toward this reading mother, indicating that the value of reading as public performance lies in its social reproduction. By tying forms of cultural authority to commercial practices, Appleton’s new bookstore contributed to a larger nineteenth-century shift in the definition of culture historically understood as a collective project of improvement to “Culture” as a commodity to be acquired through things, through experiences, and through a normative social community centralized in a physical space: the bookstore.112
Yet as the contortions to accomodate market and civic discourses and value systems in the emerging retail bookstore indicate, this was a fraught process, tied to local social and geographic contexts, and whose difficulty is belied, even elided, by Appleton’s graphic idealization. Bookstores, of course, sold more than books. Appleton’s, through interior and exterior depictions and newspaper descriptions that circulated locally and nationally, through its built environment and store design, and through the look and composition of its stock, sold ideals of the book-buying consumer and models for public engagement with print. In the years before the Civil War—and continuing after—New York City was an incubator for the emerging forms [End Page 241] and functions of a retail bookstore. As a whole, the antebellum retail bookselling landscape was fluid and dynamic, composed of short-lived ventures frequently on the move. In every store, from simple bookfront to expansive salesroom, forms of literary value and sociability were shaped through the physical and material space of the bookstore. An exception to the common dynamic of bookselling, Appleton’s long-term success and prominent stores offer insight into these processes. The move from 200 Broadway (with its book-crowded, intimate space of individual discovery) to the new mid-century store at 346 Broadway (which emphasized aesthetic experience and civic performance), marks a shift in the foundational values that framed public engagement with Appleton’s bookstores and highlights a fault line in emerging conceptions of the commercial bookstore as a cultural institution.
III. A Legacy
In the cold early morning hours of February 12th, 1867, flames erupted from the roof of a large building on Broadway. “The scene,” described by the New York Times, “was a brilliant and imposing one; the streets appeared as light as noonday, and the faces of the rapidly increasing crowd were thrown into strong relief as they watched the progress of the flames.”113 Appleton’s Building was burning. Though vacated by the Appletons for almost seven years—and leased to dry-goods dealer S.B. Chittenden & Co.—the building continued to be called “Appleton’s Old Building” and “was one of the familiar landmarks in an ever changing Broadway.”114 Tied to the city’s collective memory, Appleton’s Building elevated the antebellum bookstore to a landmark in New York City’s cultural landscape. Their store and others tied the physical walls of the bookstore to overlapping and sometimes contradictory visions of literary community and urban experience.
In the intervening years stretching from Appleton’s to Amazon, we have extended this legacy by naturalizing the bookstore as a cultural institution, assigning its physical space symbolic significance. Today’s brick-and-mortar bookstore is the canary in the coalmine. As the physical walls of the bookstore dissolve in electronic space, as stacks are replaced by scroll bars, employees with algorithms, we question our commitment to books and to certain conceptions of literary culture. The anxiety over the future of the physical bookstore reveals real concerns over shifting cultural values—over what we read and how we read it, over how we want to imagine and inhabit our neighborhoods, over the future of creative, face-to-face collaboration, [End Page 242] and by extension, over the very nature of urban community and experience. The collective imaginary of today’s independent bookstore—framed as a victim first of big-box stores and then of the mercenary tactics of Amazon and Apple—romanticizes the brick-and-mortar store as a last bastion of a public literary culture resistant to baser commercial imperatives. And here lies both the strength and the frailty of the 21st century independent bookstore. As a cultural and community institution, it has the power to produce and preserve idealized visions of local experience—to be a living archive and to act as a hub in social, literary, and cultural networks; to be, in short, a physical landmark of and for local community. But being defined as a cultural institution while still inhabiting commercial space—calculating profit by cultural good rather than in number of books sold—creates a structural ambivalence that threatens to collapse the bookstore’s walls.
Yet as the houses of Appleton demonstrate, the identity of the bookstore and its specific relationship to commerce and cultural value is always under construction, or destruction. In this fiery moment of physical collapse, the power of the built environment to anchor cultural meaning is at once confirmed and resisted. The striking façade of Appleton’s Building may be a monumental epitaph marking the skeletal remains of one bookstore, but it is an epigraph introducing the long story of how bookstores have shaped their identities and continue to inculcate modes of literary and cultural engagement through material space.
Kristen Doyle Highland received her PhD in English and American Literature from New York University in 2015 and specializes in early American literature and print culture studies, with additional interests in spatial and digital humanities. She is currently completing a book project that examines the history and social life of the bookstore in antebellum America.
1. “View of Broadway, Opposite Fulton Street, New York,” Harper’s Weekly 2, no. 8 (1860): 104–5. Accessed via HarpWeek.
2. Trow’s New York City Directory, comp. H. Wilson (New York: John F. Trow, 1860). The Leggat brothers first opened their doors five years before a few blocks away on Nassau Street. Over the course of its fifty plus years in business, the firm hopscotched around lower Manhattan, occupying stores not only on Nassau and Fulton streets, but also on Beekman and Chambers Streets. (“The Affairs of Leggat Brothers,” The Publishers’ Weekly 60, no. 1538 [20 July 1901]: 88.) Before the Leggats moved into 151 Fulton St., the previous tenant, bookseller Edward Dunigan, painted “CHEAP BOOKS” on the upper-story brick wall of the building, which is visible in another well-known urban panorama. (“New York from the Steeple of Saint Paul’s Church, Looking East, South, and West,” Henry Papprill, engraver after John William Hill, artist [ca. 1848]. Image in Art and the Empire City; New York, 1825–1861, ed. Catherine Hoover Voorsanger and John K. Howat [New York: Metropolitan Museum of Art], 464.) Dunigan settled at 151 Fulton by 1845, after first opening his doors ten years earlier on Ferry Street. In a full-page advertisement in the Norton’s Literary Register and Book Buyer’s Almanac of 1853, Dunigan advertised his store as the Catholic Bookstore and touted his collection of Catholic prayer-books in multiple languages and bindings and standard educational works by Catholic authors, as well as an extensive collection of plain and colored toy and juvenile [End Page 243] books, “the most amusing and saleable colored Toys in print.” Norton’s Literary Register and Book Buyer’s Almanac, for 1853 (New York: Charles B. Norton), 101.
3. William Loring Andrews, The Old Booksellers of New York (New York, 1895): 31.
4. Trow’s New York City Directory (1860).
5. For a good overview of antebellum developments in book production, literacy, and the trade see A History of the Book in America, ed. David D. Hall (Chapel Hill: UNC Press, 2014), especially Vol. 2: An Extensive Republic, 1790–1840, eds Robert A. Gross and Mary Kelley and Vol. 3: The Industrial Book, 1840–1880, ed. Scott E. Casper, Jeffrey D. Groves, Stephen W. Nissenbaum, and Michael Winship.
6. On sales practices in the eighteenth century, see A History of the Book in America, Vol. 1: The Colonial Book in the Atlantic World , eds. Hugh Amory and David D. Hall (Chapel Hill: UNC Press: 2007), especially James Green, “The Book Trade in the Middle Colonies, 1680–1720,” 199–223, and Elizabeth Carroll Reilly and David D. Hall, “Customers and the Market for Books,” 387–99; and Rosalind Remer, Printers and Men of Capital: Philadelphia Book Publishers in the New Republic (Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 2000). American book history surveys also touch upon sales practices, albeit in a more generalizing fashion. See Charles A. Madison, Book Publishing in America (New York: McGraw-Hill, 1966), 3–46, and Hellmut Lehmann-Haupt, The Book In America: A History of the Making and Selling of Books in the United States (New York: R.R. Bowker, 1951).
7. Adrian Johns, The Nature of the Book: Print and Knowledge in the Making (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1998), 42.
8. Exceptions to this are Ronald and Mary Zboray’s work on the geography of the Boston book trade and the stock organization of an 1835 bookstore in New York City. Ronald J. Zboray and Mary Saracino Zboray, “The Boston Book Trades, 1789–1850: A Statistical and Geographical Analysis” in Entrepreneurs: The Boston Business Community, 1700–1850 (Massachusetts Historical Society, 1997), 210–67; Ronald J. Zboray, A Fictive People: Antebellum Economic Development and the American Reading Public (New York: Oxford UP, 1993) 136–55.
9. Michael Winship, “Distribution and the Trade” in History of the Book in America, Vol. 3, 117. Information on retail bookselling in nineteenth-century America is sparse, scattered among period memoirs such as Andrews, The Old Booksellers of New York; J.C. Derby, Fifty Years Among Authors, Books and Publishers (New York: G.W. Carleton & Co., 1884); Henry W. Boynton, Annals of American Bookselling, 1638–1850 (New York: Wiley, 1932); William Brotherhead, Forty Years Among the Old Booksellers of Philadelphia (Philadelphia: A. P. Brotherhead, 1891); Joseph Jackson, An Old Landmark, a Famous Bookstore (Philadelphia: Leary’s Bookstore, 1920); Dorothea Lawrence Mann, A Century of Bookselling: The Story of the Old Corner Bookstore on the Occasion of Its One Hundredth Birthday (Boston: Old Corner Bookstore, 1924). Biographies of publishers also contain references to retail stores. See, for instance, Ezra Greenspan, George Palmer Putnam: Representative American Publisher (University Park: Pennsylvania State UP, 2000). Literary periodicals and bookseller trade papers are also rich sources on retail bookselling. Additionally, some of the most valuable information on urban antebellum bookstores can be found in everyday reading and writing genres like newspapers, trade cards, directories, and diaries, as well as in visual representations of the city.
10. Winship, History of the Book in America, Vol. 3, 118. The collection, Perspectives on American Book History, eds. Scott E. Casper, Joanne D. Chaison, and Jeffrey D. Groves (Amherst: University of Massachusetts Press, 2002), for instance, relies on publisher records (incidentally, those of Harper & Bros, who did not operate their own retail outlet) to demonstrate business development (128–29). [End Page 244]
11. Johns, Nature of the Book, 42. An important reconsideration of space in book history is the collection Geographies of the Book, eds Miles Ogborn and Charles W.J. Withers (Farnham, Surrey: Ashgate, 2010). Their introduction describes a number of paths for exploring how geography is embedded in the production, circulation, and consumption of books. The 2013 SHARP conference took this book as its thematic inspiration: http://www.library.upenn.edu/exhibits/lectures/SHARP2013/SHARP2013_theme.html. James Raven’s work on seventeenth- and eighteenth-century London makes space and place distinct analytical categories: see The Business of Books: Booksellers and the English Book Trade (New Haven: Yale UP, 2007), Chap. 6; Bookscape: Geographies of Printing and Publishing in London before 1800 (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2015).
The 2014 SHARP conference cited above highlighted a number of developing web–based projects linking geography and American book studies, including Ryan Cordell’s work on antebellum newspaper networks in Digital Humanities Quarterly, http://www.digitalhu-manities.org/dhq/vol/7/1/000144/000144.html, and his Infectious Texts Project site, http://www.viraltexts.org/, and Jordan Goffin’s work on “The Atlas of the Rhode Island Book Trade in the 18th Century,” http://rihs.org/atlas/. Other significant work on American book spaces can be found, in addition to Zboray’s work, in disciplines adjacent to book history (though I would argue against an essentializing division between disciplines): architectural historian Abigail A. Van Slyck’s Free to All: Carnegie Libraries & American Culture, 1890–1920 (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1995), and the interdisciplinary collection Institutions of Reading: The Social Life of Libraries in the United States, Thomas Augst and Kenneth Carpenter, eds (Amherst: University of Massachusetts Press, 2007). Nineteenth-century literary studies has a lively engagement with city space (often more metaphorical than physical) in literature, as well as a body of work interested in domesticity (on occasion invoking material domestic spaces) and reading: see, for instance Lori Merish, Sentimental Materialism: Gender, Commodity Culture, and Nineteenth-Century American Literature (Charlotte: Duke UP, 2000). Historian David Henkin’s City Reading: Written Words and Public Spaces (New York: Columbia UP, 1998) takes seriously urban forms and spatial practice in the context of public reading. Further, Literary Geography is its own subfield of literary studies interested in the spaces and places inside the text. To these subfields, book history can productively bring its emphasis on the book as a material object and interest in the processes of production, distribution, and consumption.
12. Gerald R. Wolfe, The House of Appleton (Metuchen, N.J.: The Scarecrow Press, 1981), 6–7. An older biography of Appleton & Co. is Grant Overton, Portrait of a Publisher (New York: D. Appleton & Co., 1925).
13. Martha Joanna Lamb and Burton Harrison, History of the City of New York: Its Origin, Rise and Progress, Volume 3 (New York: A.S. Barnes, 1896), 688. Accessed via Google-Books.
14. “Literature: Chat with the Senior Partner of an Old Publishing House,” Chicago Daily Tribune (25 Apr 1880), 17. ProQuest Historical Newspapers. Wolfe, House of Appleton, 6–7.
15. Wolfe, House of Appleton, 7.
16. Bookstore location information culled from city directories, advertisements, and other sources and mapped using ArcGIS. Linking quantitative, qualitative, and image data, GIS can combine varied information formats from a common location and visualize these results in any number of layers on a geographic map. In this integrative aspect lies the “power of GIS for the humanities” (David J. Bodenhamer, John Corrigan, and Trevor M. Harris, introduction to The Spatial Humanities: GIS and the Future of Humanities Scholarship [Blooomington: Indiana UP, 2010] , ix). As historian Zephyr Frank has noted, doing book history in the digital age is not to pit two media technologies against one another—the book and the digital—but to use one to highlight and explore new perspectives on the other (Zephyr Frank, “Layers, Flows, Intersections: Historical GIS for 19th century Rio de Janeiro,” Presentation at UNC’s Digital Innovation Lab, 19 Feb. 2013). GIS and digital mapping, in transforming flat tables such as [End Page 245] address listings into visualizations, can represent data in multiple perspectives and allow us to think about meaning in spatial distributions and patterns. For antebellum New York City bookstores, mapping their locations—contrary to critiques that the map hides complexity and ambiguity—in this case can highlight the complexity, multiplicity, and contingency of the retail trade at this moment. Narrative, analysis, and additional sources, of course, remain an essential component of making meaning of these visualizations.
Bookstore totals calculated by address and adjusted for repeat addresses (i.e. more than one partner and/or clerks listed at work address). Duplicate store addresses with one qualified “upstairs” or “rear” counted as separate establishments. Names without work addresses not included in calculations, and if two work addresses listed for an individual, both addresses counted as separate establishments.
Even with caveats, city directory listings—the period’s yellow pages—contain a wealth of information about the people and places of antebellum New York City’s retail trade. However, directories, like any historical resource, are not infallible. Though remarkably expansive, exclusions of individuals (either by that individual’s choice or error on the part of the canvasser) could occur; shorthand in professional labels might obscure professional roles—for instance, by 1855, “books” became a standardized professional term in the directory, omitting a bookseller’s possible additional roles as stationer, publisher, or printer. Catalogues and advertisements prove helpful in supplementing this information. Professions at the lower end of the socioeconomic ladder—cartmen and porters, for instance—or transient residents such as sailors are likely underrepresented. But as Ronald Zboray notes in his statistical analysis of the Boston book market, the higher professional status of the bookseller as well as the directory printer’s own embeddedness in the print trade of the city likely defended against many omissions and mistakes. Potential insights in directory data, however, are hidden in the directory’s format of long lists by last name. We can track an individual through the years, but we can’t see his relationship to city space—to the neighboring stores and streets, to other booksellers or reading places. GIS allows for visualization of these spatial relationships.
Directories used include those published by David Longworth, John Dogget, Jr., and John F. Trow, issued between 1820 and 1860, and housed at the New-York Historical Society. Specific details for calculations from directory data will be footnoted as necessary, but in general, all efforts have been made to adjust for duplicate entries, such as when individuals and the firm name are listed separately, and to amend any obvious errors in spelling or location. For my purposes—to track the development of the bookstore rather than all the places in which books might have been found—data collection focused on entries that included “bookseller, “bookstore,” and “books.” (Often, other professions such as stationer and printer would be included in occupation description as well, particularly in the 1820s and early 1830s.) Listings specifying only “publisher” or “printer” were not included, though books would likely have been available in these locations as well. Any calculation or mapping of bookstores is dependent on self-identification in the directories; I am interested in those individuals who identified themselves primarily as booksellers or their business as a bookstore in order to help elucidate the meaning of “bookstore” in this time period.
17. “Sketches of the Publishers: D. Appleton & Co.,” The Round Table. A Saturday Review of Politics, Finance, Literature, Society and Art (13 Jan. 1866), 26. American Periodicals Series; “Appleton’s New Head-quarters,” Christian Advocate (16 Mar. 1871), 83. American Periodicals Series.
18. Wolfe, House of Appleton, 26.
19. Wolfe, House of Appleton, 25.
20. Jones, Newman, and J.S. Ewbank, The Illuminated Pictorial Directory of New York (NY, 1848). New-York Historical Society.
21. David Scobey, Empire City: The Making and Meaning of the New York City Landscape (Philadelphia: Temple UP, 2003), 94. [End Page 246]
22. “Crimes and Casualties,” Mercury (31 Mar. 1836), 3. America’s Historical Newspapers.
23. Huttner, Sidney F. & Elizabeth Stege Huttner, A Register of Artists, Engravers, Booksellers, Bookbinders, Printers & Publishers in New York City, 1821–42 (New York: Bibliographical Society of America, 1993). This register, containing a wealth of information on book trade actors, was invaluable for tracking the professions of individuals in city directories before and after their years as booksellers.
24. “Anti-Slavery Bookstore,” The Liberator 4, no. 42 (18 Oct 1834): 168. Accessible Archives.
25. For more on Ruggles, see Graham Russell Gao Hodges, David Ruggles: A Radical Black Abolitionist and the Underground Railroad in New York City (Chapel Hill: UNC Press, 2010).
26. “Southern Chivalry,” The Liberator 5. no. 39 (26 Sept 1835): 155. Accessible Archives.
27. Diary entry, 7 Jan 1837. The Diary of George Templeton Strong, 1835–1875, Vol. 1, Allan Nevins and Milton Halsey Thomas, eds. (New York, 1952), 49. Subsequent citations given with date and page numbers drawn from this volume.
28. Strong, Diary, 2 Apr 1836, 15.
29. In addition to those of Appleton and Colman, other bookstores mentioned in the early years of Strong’s diary include those of deBehr (following a fire that devastated his stock), Wiley & Long, Wiley & Putnam, and Bartlett, as well as a number of book auction spaces. See, for example, entries for 3 Mar 1836, 11; 21 Jan. 1837, 50; 17 Mar. 1837, 52; 20 Jun. 1837, 69; 5 Jun. 1839, 106.
30. Strong, Diary, 14 Mar 1836, 13.
31. Strong, Diary, 16 Mar 1836, 14. Strong indicates Robertson’s works are being sold for $12. Perhaps he is being deliberately facetious regarding twelve dollars as a “cheap” price—twelve dollars in 1836 would be a prohibitive cost for all but the very wealthiest New Yorkers.
32. Strong, Diary, 26 May 1836, 21; 5 Jun 1839, 106.
33. Strong, Diary, 5 Nov 1836, 41–42.
34. Strong also mentions reading (and being unimpressed by) Radcliffe’s Mysteries of Udolpho (Diary, 12 Dec. 1835, 7). In March of 1837, Strong borrowed a much-anticipated copy of Frankenstein from a friend who obtained the novel from the Mercantile Society Library: “Frankenstein I have tried vainly to get hold of for the last two years, till Chittenden got it out of the Mercantile Society Library for me” (29 Mar. 53). These entries may seem to indicate a hierarchy of value that designated popular novels as worthy of borrowing rather than buying. However, his reading practices aren’t so easily generalizable. He purchases Charles Dickens’s recently published Martin Chuzzlewit on 25 Dec. 1844.
35. In his introduction to Institutions of Reading: The Social Life of Libraries in the United States, Thomas Augst notes of the gentleman’s private library: “Within its walls, amongst its shelves of carefully selected and organized volumes, the library created the physical and psychological space for privacy, where an elite few gained the liberty to retire, to study, to reflect, to cultivate learning and taste” (5). On eighteenth-century reading practices generally, see Richard D. Brown, Knowledge is Power: The Diffusion of Information in Early America, 1700–1865 (Oxford, 1989); A History of the Book in America Vol. 1, especially Chap. 11. On eighteenth-century New York City literary culture, see Thomas Bender, New York Intellect: A History of Intellectual Life in New York City, from 1750 to the Beginnings of Our Own Time (Baltimore: Johns Hopkins UP, 1988).
36. Strong, House of Appleton, 10–47.
37. Strong was not the only one for whom Appleton’s held special appeal. After the deaths of his twin sons in the summer of 1853, Henry Ward Beecher traveled from Brooklyn to Appleton’s bookstore “for a consoling trip.” There, he bought one book, Vathek by William [End Page 247] Beckford, a gothic novel (first published in English in 1786) describing a powerful caliph’s misguided and sinful quest for supernatural powers and his fall into torment. Quoted in Debby Applegate, Most Famous Man in America: The Biography of Henry Ward Beecher (New York: Three Leaves Press, 2006), 269–70.
38. Strong, Diary, 8 Mar. 1836, 12; 30 Mar. 1836, 14.
39. Strong, Diary, 24 Dec. 1844, 251. On the Onderdonk affair, see Patricia Cline Cohen, “Ministerial Misdeeds: The Onderdonk Trial and Sexual Harassment in the 1840s,” Journal of Women’s History 7:3 (Fall, 1995), 34-57.
40. Strong, Diary, 3 Nov. 1836, 41.
41. Ronald J. Zboray, A Fictive People: Antebellum Economic Development and the American Reading Public (New York, 1993), 137.
42. See also Paula Lupkin, Manhood Factories: YMCA Architecture and the Making of Modern Urban Culture (Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 2010), 29, for a discussion of a “spatial framework of consumption.”
43. Roger Chartier, The Order of Books: Readers, Authors, and Libraries in Europe between the Fourteenth and Eighteenth Centuries (Stanford, 1992): “reading is always a practice embodied in acts, spaces, and habits” (3).
44. The Miscellaneous Works of Thomas Arnold (New York: Appleton & Co., 1845). Accessed via HathiTrust. Appleton’s Library Manual: containing a catalogue raisonné of upwards of twelve thousand of the most important works in every department of knowledge, in all modern languages (New York: 1847). In the collections of the Library Company of Philadelphia.
It should be noted that this image departs from other depictions of bookstore interiors that emphasize the bookseller or clerk as gateway to books in closed displays or behind sales desks. See for instance, “The Bookseller” in Edward Hazen’s Panorama of professions and trades; or Every man’s book (Philadelphia: Uriah Hunt, 1836), 195 or the Boston store of “D. Lothrop & Co.’s New Bookstore—Interior View” in American Bookseller (1 Jun. 1876). For an additional example of open shelving, see an image of long-time Philadelphia bookstore Leary’s on the Princeton University Libraries Rare Book Collections blog (“Collecting in 19th Century America,” 11 Mar. 2008, http://blogs.princeton.edu/rarebooks/2008/03/collecting-in-19th-century-ame/) . Temple University holds the Leary archives. Overall, because of the very limited number of interior depictions, it is difficult to generalize conventions of practice and whether open shelving at this time in New York City was common or exceptional, especially in the many smaller, less grand bookstores. In nearly all images, however, patrons—especially children, if present—are depicted with books in hand.
45. Quoted in Ronald J. Zboray and Mary Saracino Zboray, Literary Dollars and Social Sense: A People’s History of the Mass Market Book (New York: Routledge, 2005), 143. In an amusing coincidence, Ms. Pierce was tangentially familiar with Appleton’s as well. Depicted in the engraving of John Brown’s bookstore with which she was so familiar was a delivery cart parked in front of the store and stacked with shipping crates, one of which is clearly labeled “D. Appleton & Co. N.Y.”
46. Joanna Cohen, “Images and Imagination: Consumers in Commercial Lithography,” in The Book: American Antiquarian Society Newsletter, no. 74 (March 2008): 4.
47. See Benedict Anderson, Imagined Communities: Reflections on the Origin and Spread of Nationalism (London: Verso Books, 2006). Like newspapers, book catalogues—meant to connect readers at a distance to booksellers—demonstrate how the material functions in the symbolic and imaginative realm as well.
48. Strong, Diary, 19 Jun 1839, 107.
49. Strong, Diary, 7 Jan 1837, 46.
50. Strong, Diary, 2 Apr 1836, 15. Considering the titles Strong identified in his diary—including Evelyn’s Diary, Pierre Bayle’s Historical and Critical Dictionary (1695), a Second Folio of Shakespeare, Dickens’ Martin Chuzzlewit, and annuals, Appleton carried a wide variety of genres in both rare and second-hand editions, as well as new publications. [End Page 248]
51. Zboray, Fictive People (136–55). Zboray’s analysis of three inventories between 1839–41 of Homer Franklin’s bookstore at 180 Broadway in Fictive People (136–55) indicates a logic of stock organization designed around loose structures of knowledge. Here, customers would have found a store stocked with a broad diversity of books—bibles piled next to novels, poetry bookending law books, and philosophy, reference, and travel books mixed among the shelves. Zboray concludes that the seemingly haphazard shelving of books is in fact a deliberate and significant reflection of epistemological constructions. More than a marketing strategy, the arrangement of stock is “a response to the prospective customer, a ‘reading’ of the reader. Further, the antebellum logic of organization evidenced in Franklin’s store suggests booksellers may have been catering to browsers unsure of their purchase.
52. Zboray, Fictive People, 153–54. An interior image in D.W. Evans and Co.’s “Pioneer Gift Book Store. D.W. Evans & Co.’s Descriptive Catalogue” in New York in 1858 (in Winterthur Library Collection) depicts a series of drawers labeled by genre, including Bibles, prayers, and hymns, perhaps suggesting an organizational strategy more recognizable to our modern genre categories. However, more research is needed; the organization of book catalogues may offer one interpretive inroad.
53. Imported books would seem to invite a broader geography into consideration. Indeed, most of the books purchased before midcentury were imported and New Yorkers and other Americans would often consider their literary productions in the context of broader transAtlantic literary values, while simultaneously calling for an original expression of American literary production. However, consideration of the retail buying of books emphasizes the insistently local aspect of book culture. Strong relied on the serendipitous finding of valuable or interesting books at stores close to his home and school, and when he did seek out a specific title—as he often did—depended upon the local bookstore and bookseller to obtain it. Though the bookseller would be linked to international networks of import and exchange, the urban customer on the retail end might construct a book geography literally by footstep.
54. Strong’s home was then located at Greenwich Avenue and Rector Street, and Columbia University at the intersection of Murray, Barclay, West Broadway, and Church Streets.
55. On the significance of daily walking paths in an individual’s social development, knowledge acquisition, and identity formation, see Allan Pred, Making Histories and Constructing Human Geographies: The Local Transformation of Practice, Power Relations, and Consciousness (Boulder, Colo.: Westview Press, 1990).
56. Notices of lecture tickets and art exhibits at bookstores are common in the newspapers. See, for instance, “Architecture,” New-York Spectator (31 Jan. 1839), 3; “Lyceum of Natural History,” New–York Spectator (7 Jan. 1839), 1; “Portrait of Bishop White,” New-York Spectator (14 Nov 1840), 1; “City Items,” New York Tribune (25 Jun. 1857), 6; all available at America’s Historical Newspapers. On lectures and lyceum culture, see Angela G. Ray, The Lyceum and Public Culture in the Nineteenth-Century United States (East Lansing: Michigan State UP, 2005) and The Cosmopolitan Lyceum: Lecture Culture and the Globe in Nineteenth-Century America, ed. Tom F. Wright (Amherst: University of Massachusetts Press, 2013). [End Page 249]
57. “Eleventh Annual Fair of the American Institute,” New-York Spectator (22 Oct. 1838), 1; “[Benefit; Managers; Home; Object],” New-York Spectator (20 Apr. 1837), 2; “A Noble Enterprise,” New-York Spectator (15 Jun. 1842), 4; all available at America’s Historical Newspapers.
58. Zboray, Fictive People, 138.
59. “Thefts,” New-York Spectator (31 Aug. 1835), 1. America’s Historical Newspapers
60. William Augustus Bartow, “Day book, 1825–1835,” Manuscripts collection, Mss. Folio Vols. B, American Antiquarian Society.
61. Likely Bartow acted more as jobber, obtaining these items from other dealers upon request. He does record a couple entries of dealings with a stationer for goods, and well as a dealer from whom he purchased knives.
62. Trow’s New York City Directory, for the year ending May 1, 1861 (New York: John F. Trow, 1861); Edwin Williams, New York As It Is in 1837 (Brooklyn: T.R. Tanner, 1837).
63. This department of the store was documented (and perhaps advertised) in a quirky meta-strategy of creating various stereoscopic views of the stereoscopic department.
64. Founded in 1754 as a subscription library, the New York Society Library is the oldest in the city. The building at 346–348 Broadway was their second location. For more on the history of the library, see the Society Library’s webpage: http://www.nysoclib.org/history.html; Marion King, Books and People: Five Decades of New York’s Oldest Library (New York: Macmillan, 1954); Austin Baxter Keep, History of the New York Society Library, with an Introductory Chapter on Libraries in Colonial New York, 1698–1776 (New York, 1908); “Appleton’s New Head-quarters,” Christian Advocate (16 Mar. 1871), 83. American Periodicals Series; Henry S.F. Cooper, Jr., and Jenny Lawrence, The New York Society Library: 250 Years (New York: New York Society Library, 2004), http://www.nysoclib.org/articles/250_years.html.
65. Walt Whitman, “Broadway, the Magnificent,” in Life Illustrated (8 Nov. 1856). Jerome Loving, “‘Broadway, the Magnificent!’: A Newly Discovered Whitman Essay,” Walt Whitman Quarterly Review 12 (Spring 1995): 209–16.
66. George Long, bookseller, 71 Pearl St.; John Thompson, bookseller and binder, 128 Pearl St.; T. & J. Swords, booksellers and printers, 160 Pearl St.; Thomas A. Ronalds, bookseller, 188 Pearl St.; Collins & Co., booksellers and stationers, 189 Pearl St.; Robert M’Dermut, bookseller, 222 Pearl St.; Collins & Hannay, booksellers, 230 Pearl St.; Samuel Wood & Son, booksellers and printers, 261 Pearl St.; Babcock & Co., bookstore, 276 Pearl St.; James V. Seaman, bookseller, 296 Pearl St.; John Montgomery, bookseller and binder, 318 Pearl St.; Robert Bartow, bookseller, 347 Pearl St.; Oliver Halsted, bookstore, 3 Wall St. (at corner of Pearl St.).
67. William B. Gilley, bookstore, 92 Broadway; J. Eastburn & Co., books and reading room, 108 Broadway; A.T. Goodrich, bookstore and library, 124 Broadway; Haly & Thomas, booksellers, 142 Broadway; L. & F. Lockwood, bookstore and library, 154 Broadway; Lockwood & Co., bookstore 177 ½ Broadway; William H. Senior, bookseller, 177 Broadway; Elam Bliss, bookseller and stationer, 208 Broadway; John L. Tiffany, bookseller, 210 Broadway; Samuel Whiting, bookseller, 210 Broadway.
68. 1830 Broadway bookstores: William Gilley, bookseller and stationer, no. 94; G., C., & H. Carvill, booksellers, no. 108; Charles deBehr, bookstore, no. 108; Elam Bliss, bookseller, no. 111; A.T. Goodrich, bookstore and library, no. 124; T. & J. Swords, booksellers and printers, no. 127; Isaac T. Doughty, bookstore, no. 128; George W. Lord, bookseller, no. 151; John Disturnell, books and prints, no. 155; Peaslee & Cowperthwaite, booksellers, no. 157; [End Page 250] George Long, bookseller and stationer, no. 161; George W. Bleeker, bookstore and publisher, no. 172 ½; Jonathan Leavitt, bookseller, no 182; James E. Betts, bookseller, no. 214; William A. Colman, bookseller, no. 239; James Ryan, bookseller, no. 322; Lorenzo L. DaPonte, bookseller, no. 336; Monson Bancroft, bookstore, no. 403; Solomon King, bookstore, no. 407; Roe Lockwood, bookseller, no. 415; Alanson Sherman, bookstore, 10 Arcade St; William Gowan, bookstore, 26 Arcade St.; Daniel Mallory, bookseller, 40 Arcade St; Robert MacGill, bookstore and library, 56 Cedar St.
1830 Pearl St. Stores: Lewis Adams, bookseller, no. 203; Thomas A. Ronalds, bookseller and stationer, no. 203; Benjamin S. Collins and Samuel Hannay, booksellers, no. 230; Samuel Wood & Son, booksellers and printers, no. 261; Mahlon Day, bookseller and printer, no. 376; Samuel S. Ketcham, bookstore, no. 384; Isaac T. Hopper, bookstore, no. 420; Henry Durell, bookseller, no. 478.
69. “Fire in Broadway,” New York Times (13 Feb. 1867), 8. ProQuest Historical Newspapers.
70. “Bookstore of Messrs. Appleton,” Gleason’s Pictorial Drawing-Room Companion (24 Jun. 1854), 396. American Periodicals Series. Portions of the text of this article appeared a few months prior. See “Messrs. Appleton’s New Bookstore,” New York Observer and Chronicle (19 Jan. 1854), 22. American Periodical Series.
71. John Reuben Chapin, The Historical Picture Gallery: or, Scenes and Incidents in American History (Boston, 1856). Image alone available through the New York Public Library Digital Gallery. This curious book—multiple copies digitized through HathiTrust—is both a collection of short historical sketches as well as a collection of advertisements. (The copy at University of Michigan is catalogued as the Illustrated American Advertiser). Labeled in the preface as the “fifth volume of this Series of Advertising Publications,” the book includes an index to both its historical sketches and its advertisements. Advertised firms hail from New York and Boston; Appleton’s is one of two ads for “publishers and booksellers.”
72. “Messrs. Appleton’s New Bookstore,” New York Observer and Chronicle (19 Jan. 1854), 22. American Periodical Series.
73. “Topics Astir,” Home Journal (21 Jan. 1854), 2. American Periodical Series; “The Book Trade: Publishers and Publishing in New York,” New York Daily Tribune (17 Mar. 1854), 6. ProQuest Historical Newspapers.
74. Quoted in Wolfe, House of Appleton, 58 from an unnamed contemporary periodical in the NYHS collections. Appleton’s was well known for selling—in addition to books—prints, stereoscopes, viewing slides, and other visual materials, evincing an awareness of the impact of visual experience, an awareness that may have informed the design of its stores. See Wolfe, 56. The New York Times notes in its 19 Dec 1863 edition, the Appletons’ “have long connected with their book business a depot for [photography’s] various productions” (5).
75. “Messrs. Appleton’s New Bookstore,” New York Observer and Chronicle (19 Jan. 1854), 22, American Periodical Series; “The Appletons,” New York Evangelist (26 Jan. 1854), 14, American Periodical Series. I also thank architect Sean Goodrick for general information on Greek Revival and neoclassical design.
76. It should be noted that in addition to the shared material and symbolic space discussed here, the library and the bookstore also shared print space and audience in the emerging book trade periodicals of the nineteenth century. Norton’s Literary and Educational Register, for 1854, for instance, included in its long title “An Annual of interesting facts, and a statistical companion, valuable to the Bookseller, the Librarian, and the Reading Man.” On book trade periodicals, see Jeffrey D. Groves, “Trade Communication” in A History of the Book in America: Vol. 3: The Industrial Book, 1840–1880, ed. Scott E. Casper, Jeffrey D. Groves, Stephen W. Nissenbaum, and Michael Winship (Chapel Hill: UNC Press, 2007), 130–39; and Zboray, A Fictive People, 18–24.
77. The linking of bookstores, libraries, and reading rooms requires more careful study; however, their pairing in records before 1840 aligns the early nineteenth–century bookstore with the sociability practices of the eighteenth–century coffee house. Hocquet Caritat’s evolving business from 1793 into the first decade of the nineteenth century—alternatively and simultaneously a circulating library, assembly room, and retail outlet—is emblematic of the multiple purposes a “bookstore” might serve. Yet even at this early stage of the retail development, tension between the material and social forms of library and a bookstore are evident. Caritat’s location at 153 Broadway at the turn of the century was described as “‘large, commodious, and so fitted out that the Library’ would ‘not interfere with the sale business’” (27). George Gates Raddin, Hocquet Caritat and the Early New York Literary Scene (Dover, N.J.: Dover Advance Press, 1953).
78. “Improvements on Chestnut Street” (22 Sept. 1855), unsourced article in Poulson Scrapbooks, Vol. 4, Library Company of Philadelphia.
79. “Bookstore of the Messrs. Appleton,” Gleason’s Pictorial Drawing-Room Companion (24 Jun. 1854), 396. American Periodicals Series.
80. Henry S.F. Cooper Jr. and Jenny Lawrence, eds., The New York Society Library: 250 Years (New York: New York Society Library, 2004).
81. I am grateful to Sid Huttner for helping me sketch out—with actual pencil and paper at times—the described layouts of 346-8 Broadway (both as the Society Library and Apple-ton’s).
82. D. Appleton & Co. established a printing plant on Franklin Street in 1853. In 1868, an extensive factory comprising a printing plane, press rooms, composing rooms, electrotype foundry, and bindery, plus storage, was opened in Williamsburg, Brooklyn. David Scobey reads the Appletons as significant players in the energetic nineteenth-century project of reshaping city space. By dividing warehouse space, retail space, print works, and manufacturing, the firm engaged in “buying, building, renting, and moving all at the same time” and “sketched a pattern of specialization, displacement and growth” that was representative of urban change (107).
83. “Topics Astir,” Home Journal (21 Jan. 1854), 2. American Periodical Series.
84. “Sketches of the City: Broadway,” New York Daily Tribune (18 Feb. 1860), 4. Pro-Quest Historical Newspapers. On Neoclassical architecture and civic buildings, see Roger G. Kennedy et al., Greek Revival America (New York: Rizzoli, 2010); Talbot Hamlin, Greek revival architecture in America: being an account of important trends in American architecture and American life prior to the war between the States (New York: Dover Publications, 1964).
85. “Fire in Broadway,” New York Tribune (13 Feb. 1867), 8. ProQuest Historical Newspapers; Norton’s Literary and Educational Register, for 1852, 36. In 1860, Appleton & Co. moved to a new building at 443–445 Broadway, a palazzo-type design by architect Griffith Thomas. Less than a decade later, the firm removed again, to 90–94 Grand Street, two blocks west of Broadway to another custom-designed building. Both buildings were praised in the press for their monumental architecture and highlight Appleton’s direct involvement in making meaning through built space. Considered together with the Society Library building, which [End Page 252] Appleton inherited, these later buildings suggest a commitment to the messages of monumental design, a commitment shared by other prominent New York City merchants including famous department store owner, A.T. Stewart. By 1869, Scobey maintains, downtown architecture was “unabashedly monumental in design and scale” (96). On monumental scale in commercial architecture, see Winston Weisman, “Commercial Palaces of New York: 1845–1875,” The Art Bulletin, 36, no. 4 (Dec. 1954), 285–302. Trade cards from the era also provide rich documentation of trends in the commercial built landscape.
86. Thayer Tolles, “Modeling a Reputation: The American Sculptor in New York City,” in Art and the Empire City, New York 1825–1861 (New York: Metropolitan Museum of Art, 2000), 157.
87. Henkin, City Reading, 48.
88. The firm added a top floor to the Library building as seen in this photograph. The signs advertise looking glasses and other products produced and sold by Appleton’s tenants. In his biography of the firm, Gerard Wolfe lists Appletons’ various tenants as including a dentist, picture-framer, bookkeeper, button-maker, and advertising agency, with an upper story “designed exclusively for artists” (57). In combining leisure, commerce, manufacture, and artistic production under one roof, Appleton’s Building might be considered as its own micro-economy, a microcosm of the city as a whole.
89. Henkin, City Reading, 50.
90. An engraving of Appleton’s Bookstore was attached to the back cover of an 1856 edition of Cornell’s Intermediate Geography, reaching young readers in their schools, building sight recognition, announcing the firm’s material success, and also mapping the form of the bookstore and the buying of Appleton books in a national education project. See Sophia S. Cornell, Cornell’s intermediate geography: forming part second of a systematic series of school geographies (New York: : D. Appleton and Company, 1856), in the collections of the American Antiquarian Society. Discussions of Appleton’s new bookstore appeared in the New York Observer and Chronicle, Gleason’s Pictorial Drawing-Room Companion, and the New York Times, among others.
91. “Editor’s Easy Chair,” Harper’s Monthly 9:50 (1854): 260.
92. On A.T. Stewart’s department store and commercial architecture in mid-nineteenth-century New York City more generally, see Mona Domosh, “Shaping the Commercial City: Retail Districts in Nineteenth-Century New York and Boston,” Annals of the Association of American Geographers 80, no. 2 (Jun. 1990), 268–84; Ellen W. Kramer, “Contemporary Descriptions of New York City and Its Public Architecture ca. 1850,” Journal of the Society of Architectural Historians 27, no. 4 (Dec. 1968), 264–80.
93. “Messrs. Appleton’s New Bookstore,” New York Observer and Chronicle (19 Jan. 1854). American Periodicals Series; “Bookstore of Messrs. Appleton,” Gleason’s Pictorial Drawing-Room Companion (24 Jun. 1854). American Periodicals Series.
94. “Sketches of the Publishers: D. Appleton & Co.,” The Round Table. A Saturday Review of Politics, Finance, Literature, Society and Art (13 Jan. 1866), 26. American Periodical Series.
95. Publisher’s back ads in Julia Kavanagh, Rachel Gray: A Tale Founded on Fact (New York: D. Appleton & Co., 1856).
96. Publisher’s back ads in William Cullen Bryant, Letters of a Traveller (New York: D. Appleton & Co., 1859).
97. James Green identifies cloth bindings “the greatest innovation in book marketing since the colonial period” (Green, “The Rise of Book Publishing” in History of the Book in America, Vol. 2 [Chapel Hill: UNC Press, 2010], 117). Cloth covers—in use after 1820—appealed to publishers, booksellers, and binders alike for their low cost and durability, as well as the ease of decorative experimentation. Appleton was one of the first customers of Boston bindery of Benjamin Bradley & Co., renowned for their graphic decorative work and the first American [End Page 253] bindery to specialize in cloth (Wolfe, House of Appleton, 11). Though Appleton’s bookshelves almost certainly displayed the red, green, blue, and brown cloth spines of books with paper title labels, or increasingly by midcentury, a gilt title with a decorative frame or border in gold or blank-stamped, and possibly examples of more elaborate binding, such as morocco (leather-type) graining, ribbon-embossed books or those with colorful cloths in printed calicos, tartans, silks, and striped linens, it is difficult to determine exactly what appeared on the shelves. Nevertheless, numerous examples of midcentury Appleton books are available in the excellent “Database of 19th Century Cloth Bindings” in the digital collections of The Library Company of Philadelphia (http://lcpdams.librarycompany.org:8881/R?RN=799285128) and in the online exhibition, “Judging a Book by its Cover: Gold–Stamped Publishers’ Binding of the 19th Century” by Columbia University Libraries (https://exhibitions.cul.columbia.edu/exhibits/show/bindings).
98. John Doyle, Part First. Catalogue of a Large and Valuable Collection of Ancient and Modern Books in Every Department of Human Knowledge; for Sale, at extremely Low Prices for Cash, by John Doyle, at the Cheap Ancient and Modern Bookstore, the Moral Centre of the Intellectual World, No. 146 Nassau Street, New York, [May 1848]. Collections of the American Antiquarian Society.
99. Leah Price’s How To Do Things With Books in Victorian Britain (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 2012), in addition to a detailed examination of the diverse social lives and values of books in nineteenth-century Britain, offers a provocative account of how the nineteenth-century cultural-historical debate over books as texts and/or objects has implications for disciplinary conventions and practices in book historical and literary studies today.
100. Broadway and Nassau St. offer just two axes on which to chart antebellum bookselling and book culture. A third axis highlights the emergence of local, community-based stores in new and expanding residential communities. This is a dynamic uniquely tied to Manhattan’s physical and social geography. The 1840s witnessed a significant expansion of bookstores along the west side, into today’s West Village and over the following years, north into Chelsea. The ninth ward, roughly contiguous with the West Village, north from Houston to Fourteenth Street and west from Sixth Ave to the Hudson River was, though among the fastest growing areas of the city by midcentury, also one of the least densely populated. Here primarily native-born, skilled worker Manhattanites maintained a higher percentage of single- and dual-family homes (Kenneth A. Scherzer, The Unbounded Community: Neighborhood Life and Social Structure in New York City, 1830–1875 [Durham, N.C.: Duke UP, 1992]). In short, as certain businesses and manufacturing consolidated downtown, residential neighborhoods organized by class formed further north. And retail bookshops followed their well-heeled customers. At midcentury, the ninth ward became home to the third highest number of bookstores in the city (behind the second ward with Nassau Street and the third ward with lower Broadway). Thus, although bookstores retained a model of trade clustering downtown as well as commercial expansion along Broadway, an additional prominent pattern emerged near midcentury of local, community-based establishments piggybacking on the west-side residential expansion northward and participating in the shifting social geography of the city. Further, most of the female booksellers listed in the 1855 and 1860 directories operated in the northern reaches of the city, suggesting that the north-moving development of the city may have offered unique entrepreneurial opportunities for women. Stores such as Bridget and Catherine Rush’s at the northern margins of the city on West 42nd St. in 1860 operated on a hyper-local level in developing neighborhoods.
101. John Doyle, Catalogue, 3.
102. Andrews, The Old Booksellers of New York, 41.
103. Zboray, “Boston Book Trades,” 247n42. I also read the physical and ideological space of Nassau Street near midcentury as an incubator for a historical narrative of bookselling focused on the romantic bookseller and his idiosyncratic, literary insider space. [End Page 254]
104. Herman Melville to Catherine Gansevoort Lansing, 8 Sep. 1876, New York. In The Writings of Herman Melville, Correspondence, ed. Lynn Horth (Chicago: Northwestern UP and the Newberry Library, 1993), 441.
105. “The Christmas Holidays,” New York Times (21 Dec. 1865). New York Times Archives; “Holiday Goods” New York Tribune (21 Dec 1870), 4, America’s Historical Newspapers. “The Milledoler Family and How They Spent Their Christmas,” New York Tribune (23 Dec. 1867), 5, America’s Historical Newspapers.
106. It would not be too much of a stretch to suggest that the rise of new technologies marking the book as a mass-market commodity—faster printing, fancier binding, and dense illustration—starting in the 1840s and pioneered largely by NYC publishers, may be directly linked to the specific product expectations and demand fostered by the concentration of Broadway bookstores.
107. Pierre Bourdieu, Distinction: a Social Critique of the Judgment of Taste, trans. Richard Nice (Cambridge, 1984), 466: “[Taste] functions as a sort of social orientation, a ‘sense of one’s place,’ guiding the occupants of a given … social space towards the social positions adjusted to their properties, and towards the practices or goods which befit the occupants of that position.” While invoking the term “cultural economy” symbolically here, the cultural economy—as always—is also expressed materially. In addition to the sale of books, bookstores also sold lecture tickets, exhibited artwork and curiosity cabinets, enabling a variety of modes of cultural consumption.
108. Ray Hudson, Economic Geographies: Circuits, Flows, and Spaces (London: Sage, 2005), 145. A writer for the American Booksellers Guide addresses this conflation of material and associational value: “It is seldom that a set of books, like Dickens’ works, or Scott’s works, is sold, except when brought to bear directly on the purchaser in all the beauty of fresh binding, paper, type, and illustration. Fine sets of books arranged in cases in the bookstore suggest a similar disposition in the library. Books are costly, and must be exhibited that their value may be appreciated.” “Keeping up Stock,” The American Booksellers Guide 4, no. 1 (1 Jan. 1872), 13. Library Company of Philadelphia.
109. “The Appletons,” New York Evangelist (26 Jan. 1854), 14. American Periodical Series.
110. “Bookstore of Messrs. Appleton,” Gleason’s Pictorial Drawing-Room Companion (24 Jun. 1854), 396. American Periodicals Series.
111. In an advertisement for Appleton & Co. in Norton’s Literary Register for 1856, recent publications include a paper–bound edition of Jack and the Bean Stalk priced at 25 cents, cloth–bound copies of Light and Darkness; or the shadow of fate and John Keats’ Eve of St. Agnes; a poem for 75 cents and $1.50, respectively, as well as a $20 edition of The Holy Gospels bound in Turkey morocco. It is reasonable to assume that these titles were also for sale on the shelves of Appleton’s retail bookstore, representing a large cross-section of content and price.
112. Raymond Williams dates the decisive development of this sense of “culture”—as a noun describing the works and practices of intellectual and artistic activity—to the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. Though the commentators that detailed Appleton’s new midcentury Broadway store did not understand (and would not have understood) the relationships that inhered between its described space and imagined customers in these terms, the visual work of this new space as well as the way in which it and its books were described reveal an important transitional site in historical understandings of the term “culture” (Raymond Williams, Keywords: A Vocabulary of Culture and Society [New York: Oxford University Press, 1983]).
113. “Local Intelligence: Great Fire in Broadway,” New York Times (13 Feb. 1867), 8. ProQuest Historical Newspapers.
114. “Fire in Broadway,” New York Tribune (13 Feb 1867), 8. ProQuest Historical Newspapers. “From Acorn to Oak—The Appletons’ Book-Store,” Christian Inquirer (9 Apr 1859). American Periodical Series. [End Page 255]