Last winter, my favorite used book store, Skyline Books, closed its Flatiron District space after 20 years. I figured that was the last I would see of their peerless collection of old volumes.
Then a tipster alerted me to the odd presence of a first-edition bookseller taking up space inside a wholesale florist on W. 28th Street between Broadway and Sixth Avenue—a block better known as the old Tin Pan Alley. I investigated.
Sure enough, at 51 W. 28th Street, in one of the more peculiar mash-ups in New York, bookshelves of first editions were placed between floral arrangements. I was an especially pleasing, if peculiar, spectacle. Can there be two more lovely things in the world than flowers and old books? And here they were together in one shop.
I looked to the cash register and saw a familiar face. It was Rob Warren of Skyline Books. He told me the florist has made him an offer to set up a book store in the flower shop, and he was trying "something different," a more specialized selection of rare books. The name of his new place is "Book Gallery."
I told Warren that his new book store was in a historic building, one that once held publishing houses important to the history of American popular music. He didn't know this, and seemed interested to find out more. 51 W. 28th Street was, actually, for two short years, 1905-06, the home of Paul Dresser Publishing Co. You can learn more here. And 49-51 together were once the home of M. Witmark & Sons, a hugely powerful music publisher 100 years ago. Learn more here.
Wouldn't it be cool, and appropriate, if Book Gallery began selling old sheet music from the Tin Pan Alley days?