Stepping into James Cummins Booksellers is like walking into someone’s well-appointed library. The hidden bookstore is invisible from the street. Located on the 7th floor at 699 Madison Avenue, sandwiched between two designer stores, it’s not the place one goes for a paperback thriller. But Mr. Cummins has managed to fit an impressively diverse collection of rare books into a small space. The store has the air of a lost age— the walls are lined with the kind of stately, hefty tomes that Beauty and the Beasts’ Belle might have wanted in her library. Take a look around – you might be surprised what you see: children’s books a hundred years old and memoirs of the Civil War are just a few of the treasures that are stored here.
James Cummins founded the book shop in 1978, after running the rare books department at Brentano’s, an independent bookstore started in 1853 that was featured in Seinfeld. It was later bought by Macmillan, and then became part of Waldenbooks, a subsidiary of Borders. Staffers who work at James Cummins come from the rare book department of The Strand, the Books and Manuscripts department at Bonhams Auctioneers, along with a former editor at AB Bookman’s Weekly. Set up like a reading room, you can cozy up and explore the collectible books, manuscripts, autographed memorabilia, and art assembled here.
In addition to selling books, the bookstore buys books and collections, offers appraisals of single books or whole libraries, book binding, conservation, representation at auctions, and other services. A collection currently for sale is a set of rare Wizard of Oz plates that the bookstore says was “widely believed to have been destroyed.” There is also a collection of illustrations from George Tuska, who worked on Iron Man, Justice League, Teen Titans and many more comics. You can find first editions of Tarzan of the Apes, A Horse’s Tail by Mark Twain, My Life by Bill Clinton, a second edition of Robert Browning’s The Ring and the Book, and more.
Next, check out 10 Hidden Bookstores in NYC.