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Modernism - Materiality - Meaning: Exhibition


Wise Men Fished Here

A Centennial Exhibition in Honor of the Gotham Book Mart, 1920–2020

February 18 – May 20, 2019


Gotham Book Mart at the Penn Libraries

In 2008, the University of Pennsylvania was gifted the contents of the Gotham Book Mart, the legendary New York City bookstore founded by Frances Steloff in 1920. To mark the 100th anniversary of the store’s founding, the Kislak Center for Special Collections, Rare Books and Manuscripts will host an exhibition in honor of Frances Steloff and her famous bookshop. For decades the Gotham Book Mart was, as Steloff prosaically put it, “the headquarters of the avant-garde.” The exhibition explores the shop’s role in assembling, publishing, and promoting groundbreaking experimental writers, as well as its later years under the ownership of Steloff's hand-chosen successor, Andreas Brown, focusing on Brown’s passion for postcards and collaborations with graphic artist Edward Gorey.

For the past eight years, Penn Libraries curators and staff have unpacked and processed over 200,000 items and unveiled one hundred and fifty linear feet of archival materials. From this mass of "stuff," Curator David McKnight has, with the assistance of Katherine Aid and Camille Davis, selected 300 pieces ranging in date from 1900 to 2000. Drawing upon the collection’s vast array of material evidence—books, periodicals, manuscripts, and ephemera—the exhibition will narrate the history of the shop from its earliest beginnings to its demise in 2005. A catalogue of the exhibition is now available for purchase.


Hours & Locations

The exhibition will be on display February 18–May 20, 2019 in the Goldstein Family and Kamin Galleries in the Van Pelt-Dietrich Library Center at 3420 Walnut Street. 

Kamin Gallery
First floor
M, T, Th, F   8:30am–6pm
W   8:30am–8pm
Goldstein Family Gallery
Sixth floor
M, T, Th, F   10am–4:45pm
​W   10am–7:45pm
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