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When Books Mattered

4 April 2012

From the New York Times:

One hundred years ago, the architect Ernest Flagg designed what might be thought of as the Apple store of its day: a sumptuous Beaux-Arts showcase for the retail business of Charles Scribner’s Sons, book publishers.

The Scribner’s bookstore at 597 Fifth Avenue, between 48th and 49th Streets, presented a generous glass front, enough to intrigue passersby but not enough to reveal all the treasures within. One had to go inside. A sense of unfolding discovery was heightened by stairways leading to a variety of levels. The volume was far more ample and the finishes far more refined than they had to be. This space was as much about establishing a brand as it was about moving inventory. Sound familiar?

Mr. Safford was the retail chief of Scribner’s in the 1910s and ’20s, when the release of books — not tablets or apps — could cause a sensation. Scribner’s closed in 1989 but its interior became an official New York City landmark. . . . As a consequence, it has kept a lot of its original character. Even in its current incarnation as a branch of the Sephora cosmetics chain, it still feels like the kind of place where a purchase is a “great ceremonial event,” as Paul Goldberger wrote in 1978, when he was the architecture critic of The New York Times.

Link to the rest, including lots of great photos at the the New York Times


4 Comments to “When Books Mattered”

  1. The irony is strong in this one.

    But the photos are wonderful.

  2. This reminds me of the post a day or two ago that we all disliked.

  3. If I had the money, I’d buy it from the cosmetics company and open another bookstore, profits be damned.

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