Sunday, May 25, 2014

Doubleday Book Shop receipt for "The Green Planet"

This receipt, which measures a smidgen over 4½ inches wide, was tucked away inside what appears to be a never-read copy of J. Hunter Holly's The Green Planet.

The book was first purchased at the Doubleday Book Shop within the original Pennsylvania Station in New York City. Although the date is smudged, I believe it was bought on September 14, 1961. That would make sense, as September 1961 is when this Monarch paperback was originally published.

The cover price was 35 cents and the total sale price was 36 cents. A note on the receipt states: "If this purchase is not satisfactory we will be happy to make an exchange. No cash refunds."

The cover illustration on The Green Planet was done by Jack Schoenherr, who died in 2010 and was the first artist to illustrate the giant sandworms of Frank Hebert's Dune — which is just one of the wonderful tidbits in Schoenherr's obituary in The New York Times (penned by Margalit Fox).

The description of the book on the back cover states, in part:
"The thirteen exiles from Earth were hopeful when they landed on the planet Klorath. After all, others had been banished before them and had no doubt established a colony.

"But when the exiles found a pile of clean-picked human skulls they knew those who had preceded them were dead..."
The MPorcius Fiction Log published a full review of The Green Planet this past December. The book gets a "a marginal thumbs down." Its problems include "pedestrian" writing, typos, and the writer's lack of understanding of how guns work. You should check out the entire review.

If the review is accurate, then perhaps the person who purchased this sci-fi novel at Pennsylvania Station 53 years ago and (apparently) never read it wasn't missing much.

Speaking of Pennsylvania Station and its book shop, this book was purchased two years before the station's (controversial) October 1963 demolition, which paved the way for Madison Square Garden and the underground New York Penn Station. The photograph below shows what Pennsylvania Station looked like; I imagine that the Doubleday Book Shop was located somewhere along the arcade.

Meanwhile, Doubleday's biggest bookstore in New York City was a four-floor location on Fifth Avenue. But it closed in 1997 after 36 years in operation. The New York Times article on the closure is filled with interesting observations about the book trade:
  • "The death of Doubleday, the B. Dalton store at Fifth Avenue and 52d Street — closed last month after its lease expired — and the other bookshops leaves a void for the members of New York's publishing industry, centered in midtown. Writers, editors and literary agents browsed and shopped in those stores, taking in the cool stillness and new ideas waiting just behind the book jackets, while keeping tabs on who was selling and who wasn't."
  • "But even today, the Doubleday Book Shop slated to close draws serious-minded readers. With four levels and 150,000 volumes, it is prized for its knowing staff and its fiction, business and travel sections. It is also open until 11 P.M., making it a favorite retreat of Ms. [Fran] Lebowitz, who lives in the neighborhood. 'There are only two things that would make me leave the house late at night — running out of cigarettes or running out of books,' said Ms. Lebowitz. 'It was great to be able to go in and wander around.'"
  • "Since buying Doubleday and the mall-based B. Dalton chain in 1986, Barnes & Noble has closed 20 of the 50 Doubleday shops nationwide, including all of the Manhattan stores, and about 250 of the 800 B. Dalton's. At the same time, in the last five years, Barnes & Noble has opened 450 superstores. Analysts say superstores — cavernous outlets with cafes and discounted best sellers — took off in the early 1990's, proving far more profitable than regular stores. The Borders Group in Ann Arbor, Mich., Barnes & Noble's rival, has also cut its mall-based Waldenbooks chain while opening superstores. (A Borders superstore is to open at Park Avenue and 57th Street in the fall.)"

Of course, while all of this was happening in 1997, Barnes & Noble and the other "cavernous" superstores probably hardly noticed that a little outfit called had launched its online operation in 1995.

Many of those superstores ended up going the way of the original Pennsylvania Station...


  1. Evidently the Doubleday bookstore was located in the Pennsylvania Station Arcade. If you zoom in on the linked photo, the "Rented" store on the left has a partially blocked sign that indicates the future occupant.