Columbia Library columns (v.35(1985Nov-1986May))

(New York :  Friends of the Columbia Libraries.  )



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  v.35,no.1(1985:Nov): Page 3  

Building the House of Books


'HEN House of Books opened on October lo, 1930,
at 5 2 East 56th Street, it seemed unlikely that it would
survive very long, let alone that it would in time be¬
come one of the world's foremost sources of modern British and
American first editions. After all, neither the year 1930 nor the
decade that followed arc remembered for such luxuries as book

Nevertheless, fifty-five years after the opening of House of
Books, it is easy to pinpoint why the shop survived the vast eco¬
nomic problems of its early years. The reason, of course, was the
absolute dedication of its founder owners. Marguerite ("Margie")
and Louis Henry Cohn, to their work, and above all, to their cus¬
tomers. Catering to the needs of that most exigent species, book
collectors, was never a nine-to-five job for the Cohns. It was their

It is hard to imagine, however, that even the most perceptive
fortuneteller would have forecast in 1888, when Louis was born,
or in 1897, the year of Margie's birth, that they would someday be
known respectively as "the scholarly bookseller" and "the doy¬
enne of the rare book business."

As a young man, Louis was anything but scholarly and, in fact,
seems to have spent an inordinate amount of time in trouble with
his school teachers. By the time that World ^Var I was threatening,
Louis seized the opportunity for real adventure by offering his
services to Jules Jusserand, the French ambassador in A\'ashington.
His initial services for the French government were in counter-

Opposite: House of Bool<s in 1938 at 19 East 55th Street, New York,
and its co-founders, Louis Henry and Marguerite A. Cohn.
  v.35,no.1(1985:Nov): Page 3