My First Art Book - and More

By Peggy Roalf   Thursday December 24, 2020

The idleness of a holiday morning, sipping good coffee, with thin, zinc-like winter light filtering in, makes me reach for my first art book: Degas, a Skira “Taste of Our Time” edition. It is just the right size—seven by seven inches—for the kind of procrastination I will enjoy. But it has enough pages (104) to make it important enough to hold my attention. The bindings are exactly what you would expect from Skira ca. 1964: super-thick but lightweight boards covered in thickly textured natural linen, with the elongated “S” of the Skira logo de-bossed, in scarlet, exactly in the middle of the cover.

First I flip through the pages, noting that all the usual suspects, from the Louvre, MFA Boston, and The Met (above), to name a few, are present. In addition, a number of works from private collections rarely found in books are also included. Best of all, the extraordinary quality of the applied plates, printed in Lausanne, makes this small book feel much larger than its size. And it goes without saying that the text and scholarly notes by Francois Fosca; together with the timeline, bibliography and index make this fine edition a keeper.

I picked up this treasure at the Wadsworth Athenaeum while on a break between Boston University and The Cooper Union School of Art. It somehow survived all of the moves I made during my first decades in New York City. The jacket is missing a corner; the text pages are foxed; one leaf has escaped its stitching, but the plates still shimmer with the glow that Edgar Degas intended—colors he created in oils, pastels, inks, and pastel on monotype a hundred and fifty years ago. The book is paradigmatic of what an art book ought to be: it is engaging; informative; visually stimulating; very nice to hold in your hands. Thank you, Albert Skira.

In case this makes you want another art book, a rerun of the 2020 Best Indie Bookstores in New York follows:

“If you want Amazon to be the world’s only bookseller, keep shopping there.” This is one of the signs produced by the American Booksellers Association that began popping up in indie bookstores as the COVID-19 pandemic dug its teeth deeper into retailing. Independent bookstores—the cultural glue that offers shelter from the storm of holiday shopping—are struggling to stay alive in New York City. But the good news, from my count today, is that only a few of these oases of sanity have shut down. 

At McNally Jackson Books, which has four locations in Manhattan and Brooklyn along with two stationery shops, sales are “unimaginably bad,” said owner, Sarah McNally, speaking recently with The New York Times. All six shops combined are now bringing in less than its SoHo location would in a typical month, she said. Photo above courtesy McNally Jackson Books.

In October, Strand Books owner, Nancy Bass Wyden, announced on social media that with revenue down 70%, the nearly century-old business had become unsustainable. Booklovers showed up in droves the following day, with lines around the corner to get in. Fingers X’d. So, if books are the main items for your holiday shopping, or your main route to calmness in difficult times, please go local; please check website for new hours/Covid-19 restrictions. Here’s the list for 2020:



McNally Jackson Books, 4 Fulton Street at South Street Seaport, 52 Prince Street, and 76 N. 4th Street, Williamsburg. Many author events. Also in the lobby at The Shed, 545 West 30th Street. 

Idlewild Books, 170 Seventh Avenue South, at Perry Street, and Brooklyn. “Wanderlust can be fulfilled at this international bookshop focusing on world travel and languages.” Idlewild also hosts  language classes in French, Spanish, Italian and German.

The Mysterious Bookshop, 55 Warren Street. Mystery fiction in all its genres, and British imports.

Tenement Museum Shop, 97 Orchard Street Well chosen array of books about New York and New York-themed gifts.

Bluestockings Bookstore, 172 Allen Street Politics, feminism, gender-bending titles, café, and events.

LMAKgallery Second Floor, Books and Design, 298 Grand Street. Artists multiples, printed matter and ephemera, table-size sculptures, design for the home, and more. Closed.

The Drawing Center Bookstore, 35 Wooster Street Small, highly eclectic.  


Codex, 1 Bleecker Street. Specializing in literary fiction and art books; live music, and poetry readings. Photo © Emily Andrews

Taschen Books closed its 107 Greene Street location but has popped up at NeueHouse, offering an array of coffee table books on  art, design, fashion, celebrity, and sex. 110 East 25th Street.

Clic Bookstore & Gallery, 255 Centre Street, 140 West Broadway, 1242 Madison Avenue. Photography, art, fashion, and celebrities books; home décor and fashion; author events. Info

New Museum, 235 Bowery, opposite Prince Street Books, objects, gift items.

Perrotin Store, 130 Orchard Street. Art books, limited editions and artists multiples.

Dashwood Books, 33 Bond Street, between Bowery and Lafayette. Photography, including rare editions; author events, Dashwood Books imprint.

Housing Works Bookstore Café, 126 Crosby Street, temporarily closed. Used books, movies, music, special events; great coffee and sweets.

Mercer Street Books & Records, 206 Mercer Street, now in its 30th year. Out-of-print art books and vinyl LPs. 



Karma Gallery Bookstore, 136 East 3rd Street. Artists books, art periodicals and catalogues. Photo ©Emily Andrews

Bonnie Slotnick Cookbooks, 28 East Second Street Cookbooks, memoirs, and personal space appointments.

East Village Books and Records, 99 St. Marks Place Neighborhood staple for used books & CDs, oddities.

Mast Books, 72 Avenue A. Bright and clean neighborhood bookstore, with affordable used paperbacks along with high-priced out-of-print art books

Whitney Museum Bookstore, 99 Gansevoort Street Modern and contemporary American art, gifts.

Printed Matter, Inc. at The Swiss Institute, 38 St. Marks Place. Main branch at 231 Eleventh Avenue Artist books, prints, and limited editions; many events, workshops.

Strand Books, 828 Broadway The mother of them all at age 93.

David Zwirner Books, in gallery at 537 West 20th Street The powerhouse gallery is the only art gallery publisher with major worldwide distribution; the online store is here. 


Hauser & Wirth Publishers & Roth Bar, 548 West 22nd Street, NY NY. Housed in the former DIA building, the gallery's 22nd street location includes their bookstore [top], which, together with the Roth Bar serves as a hub for artists, students and the local community, presenting a range of public programs conceived by Hauser & Wirth Publishers with curators, writers and other collaborators. Photo Schenck

Printed Matter, Inc., 231 Eleventh Avenue Artist books, prints, and limited editions; also at The Swiss Institute, 38 St. Marks Place

Aperture Foundation has closed its 547 West 27th Street gallery and bookstore.

192 Books, 192 10th Avenue at 21st Street, open for limited browsing. Serious reading, art and photography, author events.

Bookmarc, 400 Bleecker Street, at 11th Street. Coffeetable fashion, art, photography; author events.

St. Marks Comics, now online and at conventions for current and vintage comics and toys. Locations downtown and in Brooklyn

Three Lives & Co., 154 West 10th Street “A haven for people who read,” and a “neighborhood touchstone.”

Alabaster Bookshop, 122 4th Avenue Used and rare, well-chosen art, antiques, and photography.

Bookdummypress pop-up and art fairs; rare and self-published photobooks, events. 

McNally Jackson Books and Cafe, 52 Prince Street, between Lafayette and Mulberry Streets Literary bookstore, great magazine rack, café and Expresso Book Machine for print on demand titles; author events. Also at 4 Fulton Street at South Street Seaport, and 76 N. 4th Street, Williamsburg. Many author events.  Also in the lobby at The Shed, 545 West 30th Street.

Carmine Street Comics, 34 Carmine Street Superheroes, manga and more.

Forbidden Planet, online for cult sci-fi, comics, collectibles.

Books of Wonder now in its 40th year at 8 West 18th Street, and 217 West 84th Street. Beginning readers through YA.

Forbidden Planet, 832 Broadway, at 13th Street. One stop shopping for avatars and comics freaks.

Posman Books at Chelsea Market, 75 9th Avenue Newest of 3 locations, with special children’s section, gifts. Also at 30 Rockefeller Plaza.



Rizzoli Bookstore, 1133 Broadway The other mother of them all, and still one of NYCs most beautiful bookstores, with regular schedule of online author events. Photo courtesy of Rizzoli

The Old Print Shop, 150 Lexington Avenue, between 28-29th Streets. An art gallery and bookstore specializing in American graphic arts, antiquarian maps, atlases, and contemporary and modern artists books.

McNally Jackson pop-up at The Shed, 545 West 30th Street.

JHU Comic Books, online and now at 299 New Dorp Lane, Staten Island.

Midtown Comics Grand Central, 64 Fulton Street, 459 Lexington, 200 West 40th Street, 32-11 41st St (Corner of Broadway), Queens.



The Drama Book Shop, in its hundredth year. New York’s longest-running source for everything on drama, has closed. Lin Manuel Miranda (above)  and team “Hamilton” are forming plans to re-open in a new location. Photo courtesy of The Drama Book Shop

Kinokuniya New York, 1073 Sixth Avenue. Japanese and American huge selection, all categories; superb stationery, craft, school supplies.

Bookoff, 49 West 45th Street, specializing in Japanese titles: Used books, DVDs, records, collectibles, "for people who don't waste."

MoMA Store, 11 West 53rd Street Art, design, photography, furnishing, gifts; without doubt, the mother of all museum stores, with two locations inside and a third across the street. 

The New York Public Library Shop, Fifth Avenue between 40-42nd Streets, closed. 

The Store at Museum of Arts and Design, 2 Columbus Circle Art, design, jewelry, furnishing, and books on these subjects.

Argosy Book Store, 116 East 59th Street. Rare and used books, prints, maps, and autographs. 

Shakespeare & Co. Booksellers, 939 Lexington Avenue [my local] and 2020 Broadway. Literary bookstore, newly renovated UES location has Expresso self-publishing service, book club and scheduled events. Textbook buy-and-sell.

Ursus Books & Prints, 50 East 78th Street, 3rd floor, by appointment. Art books, maps, rare items, prints.

Harper/s Books/Harper/s Apartment, 51 East 74th Street, buzzer 2x. Pop-up during art fairs.

Assouline Book Store, Mark Hotel 25 East 77th Street Deluxe editions.

Gagosian Shop, 976 Madison Avenue Limited editions, multiples, contemporary artists books, printed matter, objects, gifts. Post-Contemporary, intriguing.

Archivia Books, 993 Lexington Avenue Architecture, art, design, decorative arts, gardens, interiors.

Westsider Rare & Used Books, 2246 Broadway, near 80th Street Used, rare, and contemporary fiction, crime, pulp fiction, vinyl LPs, toys, novelties.

Albertine Books, 972 Fifth Avenue, closed; online sales and events. Books in French and English, within the French Embassy; events, children’s programs.

The Corner Bookstore, 131 Madison Avenue; limited browsing at this neighborhood mainstay.

Logos Bookstore, 1575 York Ave, New York, NY

Books of Wonder, 217 West 84th Street. Beginning readers through YA; events.

Museum of the City of New York Store, Fifth Avenue at 103rd Street “All things New York City.” Books, photographic prints, gifts.

Book Culture, 53 West 112th Street; 2915 Broadway at 114th Street; 450 Columbus Avenue, and 2 more; please check website. Old school and forward-looking, catering to the academic community and everyone in the neighborhood. 

The Schomburg Shop, products related to the global Black experience, with many items ranging from classic and contemporary books for adults and children, unique gifts, and an exclusive collaborations and products designed for the Schomburg Center. 515 Malcolm X Boulevard, at 135th Street.

Brooklyn \ Queens \ The Bronx \ Staten Island

The Noguchi Museum Shop has relocated to a sweeping first floor gallery, with its Akari Light Sculptures occupying much of the space, along with books, prints, and household items. Sales of these works bring the museum over $2 million per year, keeping the museum afloat. [The museum is sole North American distributor of Akari.] 9-01 33rd Road at Vernon Boulevard, Queens. Photo above © Nick Knight for The Noguchi Museum.

Astoria Bookshop, 31-29 31st Street, Queens; closed. 

Artbook@ MoMA PS1, 22-25 Jackson Avenue, Long Island City, NY. Bleeding edge art and design.

powerHouse Arena, 28 Adams Street, DUMBO, 1111 8th Av. Brooklyn and now at Industry City, 220 36th St., Building #2, Brooklyn.

Spoonbill & Sugartown, 218 Bedford Avenue, Greenpoint, Brooklyn.

Word, 126 Franklin Street, Greenpoint, Brooklyn, closed.



Archestratus books and food, 160 Huron Street, Greenpoint, Brooklyn, NY. Foodies' paradise for the Fact and Fiction of Food. Photo above courtesy of Archestratus

Greenlight Bookstore, Fort Greene: 686 Fulton Street; Prospect Lefferts Gardens: 632 Flatbush Avenue.

Molasses Books, 770 Hart Street, Brooklyn. Blooks and Bar—barter books for drinks.

Desert Island, 540 Metropolitan Avenue, Williamsburg, Brooklyn, NY. Books, graphic novels, comics, prints, novelties.

Idlewild Books, 249 Warren Street, Brooklyn, NY. Specializing in travel guides, world literature, foreign language books, and language courses. Also in Manhattan..

Topos Bookstore Cafe, 788 Woodward Avenue, Ridgewood, Queens, NY. Used books in many languages. “We buy and trade used books for $$ or store credit.”

Books Are Magic, 225 Smith Street, Cobble Hill, Brooklyn. Owned and operated by former employee of BookCourt.

Cafe Con Libros, 724 Prospect Place, Brooklyn, NY. “Explicitly feminist, with hand-pick titles for kids and adults that focus on female narratives.”

Community Bookstore, 143 Seventh Avenue, Park Slope, Brooklyn, NY Community mainstay.

Terrace Books, 242 Prospect Park West, Windsor Terrace, Brooklyn, NY Bookend of Community Bookstore.



The Lit Bar; Photo: Ama Anwar

Unnameable Books, 600 Vanderbilt Avenue between Dean & St. Mark's, Prospect Heights, Brooklyn, NY. New, used.

The BookMark Shoppe, 8415 3rd Avenue, Bay Ridge, Brooklyn, NY.

Galaxy Comics Inc, 6823 5th Avenue, Brooklyn, NY [Bay Ridge]

The Lit Bar, the only bookstore in the Bronx as of now. 131 Alexander Avenue [Mott Haven, between 134th Street & Bruckner Boulevard], Bronx.

JHU Comic Books
, online and now at 299 New Dorp Lane, Staten Island.


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