Laurence Gomme’s The Little Book-Shop Around the Corner

Gomme, Laurence J. “The Little Book-Shop Around the Corner” in The Colophon  New Series — A Quarterly for Bookmen. Vol. II, No. 4. New York: Pynson Printers Inc., Autumn 1937, pp. 574-575. Gomme used some of this material for his article later on in 1967 in the Maine Digest.

In the early beginnings of the shop, arrangements were made with Thomas Bird Mosher to act as his agent in New York. He was at the peak of his popularity. From his house in Portland, Maine, came forth the Bibelot, a magazine devoted to the most significant in English letters of the last fifty years, the familiar series of volumes clothed in their simple raiment of gray boards, and an annual catalogue which any keen collector would today be proud to place among his choicest. He was scornfully referred to in England as “The Pirate of Portland.” Whether a deserved appellation or not, it must be recorded that many an English author reached a very great reading public that would never have been his but for the selectiveness of T.B.M. and the elegance with which he clothed his “victims.” It was Andrew Lang, I think, who declared with asperity that in order to protect his rights from the “Pirate” it would soon be necessary to copyright his laundry list. Be that as it may, he produced “only those things informed by the spirit of beauty–of the souls of books–not hackneyed by reason of constant use or display,” and in doing this he was frankly out to express his own taste and opinions, not only in what he published but also in the manner of his publishing,

I only met T.B.M. once. It was on one of his very infrequent visits to New York, and early in our start. I had heard that he was the son of a sea captain and had accompanied his father around Cape Horn in his sailing vessel. I hardly expected to meet a sea captain but that is what he seemed to be rather than a publisher of belles-lettres. He was a quiet but hearty fellow, with a ready story, all the better for the Rabelaisian touch. Some years later, at the invitation of Mrs. Mosher, I had the privilege of examining his library. As was to be expected it was a personal collection of the choicest quality. Mostly first editions of the authors he had sought to popularize in his publishing business. Many of the volumes bore inscriptions to him, and let it be said many of these were grateful acknowledgments to his genius and generosity.

First run by Mitchell Kennerley, Lawrence Gomme ran one of New York’s most famous bookshops which operated from 1907-1917. Many an author, publisher, celebrated book person, photographer, thespian, and typographer frequented Gomme’s little shop. As the place became a center of literary activity, Gomme himself published over thirty books under his imprint at The Little Book-Shop.