Mapping the Bookstore: Retail Cartographies in Antebellum Manhattan


Kristen Highland, Ph.D. Candidate, Department of English, New York University

March 25, 2014 (Tuesday)

Butler Library, Room, 523, at 6:00 PM

The romanticization of the independent bookstore—haven of booklovers, erudite employees, and serendipitous discovery—obscures the historical reality of selling books—rapid turnover, failure, and looming bottom lines. But bookstores are also more than the sum of their books. This talk examines bookstores in New York City from 1820 to 1860, mapping their locations and movements to trace the retail landscape of a growing bookselling center, and presenting select case studies of stores, including Appleton & Co., to explore how the physical spaces and marketing strategies of retail booksellers helped shape the very definition of a bookstore and the contours of literary culture more generally. An understudied component of book history, the retail bookstore presented books as mass market goods in the nineteenth century and participated in the lively and varied cultural life of antebellum New York City.

Kristen Doyle Highland is a PhD Candidate in the English Department at New York University. Her dissertation project, “At the Bookstore: Literary and Cultural Experience in Antebellum New York City,” examines the physical forms, social life, and cultural significance of the retail bookstore in 19th century Manhattan. Her research has been supported by fellowships and grants from the American Antiquarian Society, the Library Company of Philadelphia, and the Bibliographical Society of America.

The Book History Colloquium at Columbia University, open to any discipline, aims to provide a broad outlet for the scholarly discussion of book history, print culture, the book arts, and bibliographical research, and (ideally) the promotion of research and publication in these fields. Our presenters include Columbia faculty members and advanced graduate students, and scholars of national prominence from a range of institutions.

Questions? Email Karla Nielsen.

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