Scribner’s Bookstore

All the good horses

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David Emblidge
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In 1989, a literary landmark in New York City closed. Scribner’s Bookstore, 597 Fifth Avenue, stood at the epicentre of Manhattan’s retail district. The Scribner’s publishing company was then 153 years old. In the 1920s, driven by genius editor Max Perkins, Scribner’s published Fitzgerald, Hemingway, and Wolfe. Scribner’s Magazine was The New Yorker of its day. The bookshop and publisher occupied a 10-storey Beaux-Arts building, designed by Ernest Flagg, which eventually won protection from the New York City Landmarks Preservation Commission. Medallions honoured printers Benjamin Franklin, William Caxton, Johann Gutenberg, and Aldus Manutius. The ‘Byzantine cathedral of books’ offered deeply informed personal service. But the paperback revolution gained momentum, bookshop chains like Barnes & Noble and Brentano’s adopted extreme discounting, and the no-discounting Scribner’s business model became unsustainable. Real estate developers swooped in. The bookshop’s ignominious end came when Italian clothier Benetton took over its space.

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