MANHATTAN´S FIFTH AVENUE BOOK STORES.
There are no such wonderful book stores as on the Avenue and nearby. Bookshops are generally supposed to be a guide to the cultural and educational aspirations of a community, and it appears that our great and glorious country is very much behind foreign nations, including the Scandinavian, in the number and importance of these establishments.
The Fifth Avenue, however, is apparently an exception. Roosevelt's publishers are up beyond 50th Street and have a beautiful place. The work of Ibanez, the great Spanish novelist, was introduced in this country by a noted house a block or two above. That splendid, virile American and ex-fighter in the Civil War, good old Major Putnam, has a splendid establishment just off the Avenue in 45th Street. A famous dry goods shop also has a wonderful book section, fitted up specially so you can "browse," as their advertisements say. I don't know what the bookseller would do without that word "browse." Seems to me it would be much better to sell the customer a lot of books and let him do his "browsing" at home. Righto !
In the upper part of the Avenue there are a number of decorators and antique shops of a peculiar type. Their salons and galleries are fitted up without regard to cost and they occupy as a rule the most exclusive and expensive buildings obtainable.
What struck me as the peculiar thing about them was the utter lack of attention which greets you when you enter. In some places your presence is plainly resented. In others you are asked if you have an appointment and the horrified manner in which your negative reply is received is sufficient to convince you that you have committed an unforgivable crime.
In a majority of cases you are simply ignored; in one instance a rug dealer imparted the information that he wasn't selling rugs that day, to come around next week.
All this, however, is not discourtesy. It is simply their way of doing business. They do not cater to the hoi poilloi. Their clients are few. But they spend a fortune when they do come in. Consequently everything that might interfere with immediate attention upon their arrival is not to be considered for a moment—even the brief delay occasioned by murmuring a few words of apology while dismissing you. They know their business and what seems rudeness to us arises from an altogether and perfectly legitimate policy.
The art dealers, on the other hand, are exactly the opposite. They invite the public to look at their pictures and give free exhibitions all the time. The dealers in rare prints, old and valuable books, first editions, autograph letters of famous men, etc., are here in goodly numbers.
Some very wonderful items are occasionally found in their stocks. There is not, however, any counterpart in number of the celebrated second hand shops which abound in England and Continental cities, nor since the death of "Joe" Sabin is there any particular place where bibliophiles are wont to foregather and discuss the latest auction or the latest "find." The nearest approach to such a section is on Fourth Avenue near 14th Street, where quite an aggregation of talent has congregated in late years and this may in time correspond to the region we have in mind.
Coming up the Murray Hill district of the avenue one stops involuntarily to admire the dignified and impressive outlines of New York's great Public Library. With a sigh one recalls the sudden death by accident of the great architect whose brain planned this classic edifice just a week before its formal opening. The doors of the still unopened building swing back to permit the body of John M. Carrere to rest for a moment in the rotunda of what was to be the crowning achievement of his career. It was a graceful and beautiful tribute. Some idea of the size and service of this institution may be gained from these figures :
The year's visitors numbered about 3,000,000. The cost of operating the building for a year is $90,000. This is borne by the board of trustees. The cost of the re-pairs, borne by the city, amounts to $45,000. More than 2,000,000 books were consulted by persons using the reference department. Almost 10,000,000 volumes were taken out by borrowers from the circulation departments throughout the city. In addition to the regular brand libraries, about 50,000 volumes were distributed through 417 special agencies of the extension division.
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