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.


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pp. 214-255
Launched on MUSE
Open Access
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