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Thursday, December 10, 2009

International bookseller labels from New York



Cataloging books the other day, I struggled through a few non-English titles, trying to translate French and German to English to see what exactly I was dealing with. To my surprise, both had their bookseller labels still affixed. I hadn't come across any of these ephemeral bits of the book trade in a while and was getting complacent about even looking for them in more recently published books such as those harboring these labels.

The two New York City booksellers, represented here by their inconspicuous labels, were anything but inconspicuous as long-established bookselling concerns with specialties in foreign language titles.

The Librairie de France closed its doors just a few months ago. With rent tripling to about a million dollars a year, they just couldn't stay open in their Rockefeller Center space, where they'd been for 74 years. The picture below, from the New York Daily News, shows the store and its owner, Emanuel Molho, whose father started the business in 1928.


But a visit to their Web site offers some solace to customers with the announcement that they will continue operating as a mail order business.

Stechert-Hafner has a longer history than its former neighbor above and, surprisingly so, there is scant biographical information online about the principals of this company.

They got started in New York City in 1872 as G.E. Stechert & Company. Stechert was joined later by Swiss immigrant, Alfred Hafner, who worked in various positions for the company before his name became a part of the firm's name.

A 1966 obituary in the New York Times indicates that Otto Hafner was the president of the company at the time of his death. The company is described as having offices in London, Paris, Stuttgart, Germany, and Bogota, Colombia. A large international bookselling firm, they imported and exported books in many parts of the world.

Countless references can be found on the science, technical, medical, and other nonfiction categories, in which Stechert-Hafner dealt, in languages from around the world.

Nine stories of inventory at their New York location were purchased by Richard Booth and moved to his Hay on Wye bookstore, a former castle. The date of the purchase is not indicated in the article at the link above, but Booth started his bookshop in the early 1960s. Perhaps with Hafner's death, the company's beginning of the end was at hand.

3 comments:

  1. I know this is old.... but i recently dug up a very old book that i found at a used bookstore a couple of years ago. This book is a German book that was printed in Germany around 1934. I know the date because this book was apparently a gift to somebody and the date says May, 1934. Well anyway from what i could translate on google, I figured out the title meant

    "The Pleine flower book Available in many colors"

    And this book is just a bunch of hand-drawn pictures of flowers with German labels on them. Now I just realized I was rambling..... SORRY!

    Anyway what led me here was that the book had a publisher label that said...

    G.E. STECHERT & CO.
    (ALFRED HAFNER)
    NEW YORK

    I was just thinking this was interesting and I was wondering whether this book was worth anything. If anybody finds out if it is worth something please tell me!

    My Email: bs214232@gmail.com



    THANKS!!!

    ReplyDelete
  2. I have had Otto H Hofners passport for years. I stumbled upon it again this after noon and my search lead me to this post about his father! Very cool!!!

    ReplyDelete
  3. Footnote about Stechert. During WWII, there was a movement to boycott German goods. When the organizers approached Stechert about stopping the sales of German books, they were met with extreme hostility and a refusal to comply.

    ReplyDelete

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