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"The Booksellers" - A Tribute to New York's Book Trade is out!

Years in the making, the documentary on New York's book trade premiered this week at the New York Film Festival and is off to a fantastic start!
Published on 11 Oct. 2019
The Booksellers Documentary

You could hardly miss the news this week when the long awaited documentary "The Booksellers" was finally released on Monday during the New York Film Festival which resulted in an overwhelming response by the press. 
Daniel Wechsler of New York's Sanctuary Books, ILAB affiliated bookseller and co-producer of the movie, informed us that no official trailer has yet been released (we will keep you posted) but the team has now signed up with a global producer which will allow booklovers around the world to see the movie very soon. 

Many familiar faces of the trade, stories, anecdotes and the love for the book, literature and possibly the appeal of a bygone era or an analogue offset to our digital world, will make this movie a treasure especially for anyone working in the rare book trade. 

FEATURED NYC BOOKSELLERS

Dave Bergman
The “smallest dealer with the biggest books”

Adina Cohen, Naomi Hample and Judith Lowry
The three sisters of the Argosy Book Store

Jim Cummins
The consummate bookseller, who owns over 400,000 books

Arthur Fournier
Specialist in late 20th century materials and transformative cultural movements

Stephen Massey
Founder of Christie’s NY Book Department, long-time appraiser on Antiques Roadshow, and auctioneer of the most valuable book ever sold, Da Vinci's Hammer codex

Bibi Mohamed
One of the preeminent dealers in leather bound books

Heather O’Donnell
Bookseller at Honey and Wax Booksellers

Rebecca Romney
Pawn Stars go-to expert and rare book dealer at Type Punch Matrix

Justin Schiller
Pioneering children’s book specialist

Adam Weinberger
Frequent Pawn Stars guest and intrepid book hunter

Henry Wessells
Poet, writer, sci-fi collector, Arabist and bookseller


ADDITIONAL PARTICIPANTS

Syreeta Gates
Hip-hop archivist and collector and documentary filmmaker

Glenn Horowitz
Top archive handler (Nabokov, Dylan, Garcia Marquez)

Erik DuRon and Jess Kuronen
Owners of the revived Left Bank Books

Fran Lebowitz
Author, speaker, and cultural commentator

Tom Lecky
Owner of Riverrun Books and former Head of Printed Books & Manuscripts at Christie’s

Nicholas D. Lowry
Antiques Roadshow appraiser and President of Swann Auction Galleries

Ed Maggs
Dealer from the venerable London firm Maggs Bros.

Susan Orlean
New Yorker staff writer and author of seven books including The Orchid Thief and The Library Book (New York Times Notable Book of 2018)

William Reese
Widely considered the greatest American rare book dealer of his generation

Caroline Schimmel
Owner of one of the world's most important collections of women writers

Sunday Steinkirchner
Co-owner of B&B Rare Books in New York

Gay Talese
Journalist and bestselling author of fourteen books

Jay Walker
Priceline.com founder and owner of the Walker Library of The History of Human Imagination, one of the greatest personal libraries in the world

Rob Warren
New York dealer and owner of the now closed Skyline Books

Nancy Bass Wyden
Co-owner of The Strand bookstore

Kevin Young
Director of the Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture, author, and Poetry Editor of The New Yorker

Lizzy Young
Expert on culinary books with a newly opened store in Brooklyn

Michael Zinman
One of the most influential collectors of Americana

The New York Film Festival writes: 

What once seemed like an esoteric world now seems essential to our culture: the community of rare book dealers and collectors who, in their love of the delicacy and tactility of books, are helping to keep the printed word alive. D.W. Young’s elegant and entertaining documentary, executive produced by Parker Posey, is a lively tour of New York’s book world, past and present, from the Park Avenue Armory’s annual Antiquarian Book Fair, where original editions can fetch hundreds of thousands of dollars; to the Strand and Argosy book stores, still standing against all odds; to the beautifully crammed apartments of collectors and buyers. The film features a litany of special guests, including Fran Lebowitz, Susan Orlean, Gay Talese, and a community of dedicated book dealers who strongly believe in the wonder of the object and the everlasting importance of what’s inside.

Variety Magazine NY writes:

Yet if the rare-book trade has reached a crucial moment of struggle, “The Booksellers” reveals that it’s hanging on in novel ways. The present-tense sheen of the 21st century has altered the meaning, and place, of books in our society in ways that can make them seem even more valuable. You might say that vintage books are now like vinyl albums — but in this case, they always were. So for the vintage-book believer, the value of a volume has actually gone up: as totem, as symbol, as artifact of beauty. Its slow fade from the culture only enhances its magic as an object.

“The Booksellers” invites us to dote on the tactile mystery of old books — the elegance of the print, the pages that may be fragmenting, the colorful latticework bindings, the back-breaking size of certain old volumes, like the Gutenberg Bible (more or less the first book ever printed, dating back to the mid-1400s), or one giant book we see that contains intricate drawings of fish skeletons.

Argosy
Sisters Adina Cohen, Judith Lowry and Naomi Hample, owners of the Argosy Book Store, at the store on East 59th Street in Manhattan, in "The Booksellers," directed by D.W. Young


New York Daily News writes:

Director D.W. Young did more than take a picture of antiquarian book dealers, he made an entire film about the subject. “The Booksellers,” which debuts at the New York Film Festival on Monday, captures a field “in huge upheaval,” Young said. “Certainly there’s a sense among the older booksellers that it’s the end of an era.”

While most individual antiquarian book dealers in America are based in New York, they are less visible as the city’s physical landscape has changed. “The bookstores are almost all gone now, except for a few like Argosy and Bauman and The Strand,” Young explained. The book fair at the Park Avenue Armory, which is a framework for his film, remains perhaps the industry’s preeminent event.

“I used to love walking around New York and going into these bookstores and browsing — they really were part of the city’s culture,” said actress Parker Posey, who was asked to provide narration but signed on as executive producer because she loved the movie. “I watched it and then watched it again. It’s thoughtful and filled with real characters.”

Hollywood Reporter writes: 

We learn that in the 1950s there were 358 bookstores in New York City and that now there are only 79 remaining (it's actually surprising there are still that many). Among the notable used and rare bookstores that have survived are The Strand, opened in 1929 and now the only one left of what used to be dozens of such establishments on 4th Avenue, once dubbed "Book Row." There's also the Argosy Book Store on E. 59th Street, established in 1925 and currently run by the three daughters of the original owner. Tellingly, both of these are family businesses, and their longevity can be ascribed to the fact that the families own the buildings in which their stores are located.

The doc fascinatingly delves into the history of book collecting, spotlighting such pioneering figures as legendary British dealer A.S. W. Rosenbach, whose nickname was "The Napoleon of Books," and researchers Leona Rostenberg and Madeleine B. Stern, who uncovered Louisa May Alcott's pseudonym of A.M. Bernard, which the author of Little Women used when writing pulp romance fiction.

Author Fran Lebowitz offers plenty of amusing commentary throughout the film. "You know what they used to call independent bookstores? Bookstores," she jokes, adding, "They were all independent."

A wonderful project, not to be missed when screened in your city! 

A native New Yorker, Dan Wechsler (co-producer) is a rare bookseller (ABAA/ILAB), publisher and filmmaker. His documentary MORE THAN THE RAINBOW premiered at DOC NYC in 2012 and later screened as the opening night film at the Coney Island Film Festival where it won the award for Best Documentary. It was released in 2013 by First Run Features. In 2015, Wechsler and George Koppelman wrote and published Shakespeare’s Beehive, an account of an extraordinary annotated dictionary.
For more information about the project, please contact Dan Wechsler here.

Official website: https://booksellersdocumentary.com/

The Booksellers

 

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