info 10.15.07

4 NYC Books

There are lots of NYC reference books (The Encyclopedia of New York City, the AIA Guide to New York City) that belong in any Newyorkophile's library. Here are four that aren't as well known but always give us a kick when we leaf through them.

As You Pass By
'Old Manhattan Through The Fire Laddies' Eyes' is the subtitle of this one—a bit odd at first glance to write a history that way. But it's got so many fascinating elements: tons of great images (including a wonderful one of Sunfish Pond, once in Murray Hill, that was a "favorite spot for the young farm lads of the vicinity, and their dads, to do a little fishing or muskratting"), schematics of various neighborhoods, and a Directory of Forgotten Streets, with entries such as Herring Street (now Mercer), Locust Street (now Sullivan), Quick Street (now East Broadway).

Columbia Historical Portrait of New York
For great images, though, nothing can top this 500-plus-page Essay in Graphic History, published in 1953. The lithos, photographs, paintings, maps, engravings et al are in black and white (with a few exceptions), but it hardly interferes with the incredibly pleasant time travel at your fingertips. One of our all-time faves.

Knife and Fork in New York
From 1948, Lawton Mackall is your guide to the city's food scenes. It's a charming, personal account—and we read it with alternating views: that New York was hopelessly provincial when it came to food/it had a streak of cosmopolitan adventurousness. We're not exactly sure where this dish from Lum Fong, once on Canal Street, falls: "fresh lobster meat with chicken livers, snow peas, water chestnuts, and pineapple sauce."

Manhattan Moves Uptown
Charles Lockwood's engagingly written history tells the story of its title, staying largely in the 19th century. Familiar characters—everyone from Clement Clarke Moore to Mme. Restell—turn up and there are well chosen images throughout. To have a firm grasp of the city's history, this one's a must. Sequels, though, along the lines of Manhattan Moves Back Downtown, followed by Manhattan Moves to Brooklyn, need to be written.

How to Get the Books
Though these books are out of print, they're all easily obtainable—check with Bookfinder, Abe Books, or Alibris.

Piling On
Interesting to read New York magazine's piece on Gawker this morning. Our own views of Gawker turned sour when they began running a series called the New York User's Guide. Gawker's publisher, Nick Denton, with whom we had had cordial relations, did not respond when we questioned the use of User's Guide in this context. We then sent a cease-and-desist letter. Their attorney, Gaby Darbyshire, after some windy and spurious reasoning, concluded in a letter to us: "Since we are not infringing any cognizable trademark, I trust this will be the end of our correspondence unless you wish to pay our attorneys' fees for responding to frivolous complaints." Manhattan User's Guide began publishing in 1992 and we have developed different definitions, evidently, of what is frivolous. Also, obviously, different definitions of what constitutes ethical behavior.


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