Schulte’s Book Store was at 80 - 82 Fourth Avenue on ‘Booksellers’ Row’ in New York City. Here is Lovecraft writing home, about being unable to resist bagging a 10 cent collection from the store, despite his growing poverty…
“[…] Here I’ll have to admit a fall from grace so far as non-purchasing is concern’d, for a great volume of Bulwer-Lytton, with most of the weird novels complete — Zanoni, A Strange Story, and The House and the Brain — for only ten cents, proved a fatal bait; and I departed from the Schulte Emporium with less in my pocket and more in my hand. But only a dime, remember!” — from a Lovecraft letter of 20th May 1925.
The store was on a ‘Booksellers’ Row’ in the city. That name was first applied to the old Bookseller’s Row, near “St. Clement’s Dane Church in the Strand”, reportedly pulled down in 1903 at which time the New York Observer report it… “is now a mass of fallen and misshapen walls in process of removal, the lime-laden dust pervading the historic atmosphere.” Fourth Avenue then appears to have become the new ‘Booksellers’ Row’ perhaps circa 1911 and was a New York fixture until the 1960s, with a few stores hanging on into the 1970s. Ephemeral New York has a good short article on “Fourth Avenue’s Book Row”.
Schulte’s is seen at the lower end of the above map and was run by Theo Schulte, and from 1925 also by his new business partner Philip Pesky. They had a crowd of bookish boy assistants, and shipping packers in the packing room, all eager to learn the trade. It was the sort of place where Binkin, later to buy a huge Lovecraft collection and hence recall that Lovecraft had once patronised his book store, might have started off in the trade — and thus seen Lovecraft’s face on a regular basis in the 1920s.
By 1938 the store’s magazine adverts had it that the store… “invites you to browse among their interesting stock of over 500,000 used books.” (Saturday Review of Literature). A 1939 Harper’s Bazaar profile had it that the store was located “in about the most Victorian section of New York”. It was also well known that Schulte was always willing to buy good books that one had finished with.
There’s no interior photography that I can find online, but there are two evocative passages that describe the interior experience of the store as it would have been had by Lovecraft and his circle…
“Schulte was the eminence grise of the book trade … His shop at 80 [and 82] Fourth Avenue was legendary. Like the other bookstores, it had a large sidewalk stock out front, where you can choose for your pennies, tomes in old—fashioned binding and printing. But inside, behind front windows that proclaimed it LARGEST SECOND HAND BOOKSTORE IN NY, it was uniquely impressive with a huge main floor, tall balconies, and a cavernous basement. It was also well stocked. “Inside,” according to Guido Bruno’s Adventures, “are shelves laden with books in delightful disorder left by the book-hunter who looked through them before you. So large was the place that the staff could not keep up with all the action: shoppers were responsible for switching on and off the bare bulbs that lighted the alcoves and labyrinthine paths of the store.” (from Thieves of Book Row: New York’s Most Notorious Rare Book Ring).
By the 1960s it had less books than the 500,000 of its heyday, and Mr. Schulte had passed on in 1950…
“Surveying its barn-like main floor, its basement and three-sided balcony, an awestruck customer called Schulte’s “a great amphitheater” in which there seemed to sit “arranged all the books that were ever penned.” When I visited it, every stair step and nearly every floor board in the place creaked with nearly every footfall, but there were 140,000 books on its shelves, and, if a person could not find what he wanted, there were these lines to reassure him: “The Mounties always get their crook! And Schulte’s always get their book,” in proud, if flawed, poesy. If there wasn’t enough on the main floor, it was upstairs to Asia, Africa and Religion, two land masses leading on to infinity — up there amid pipes and low-hanging bare light bulbs, which customers turned on and off as they moved from section to section. Tables were heaped with books in stacks running thirty high and, if you saw a title that looked tempting near the base of a stack, it was quite a trick to slip it out without spilling a tower of books.” (from McCandlish Phillips, City Notebook).
Incidentally, amazingly it was Lovecraft who in 1922 had introduced the New York native Frank Belknap Long to the second-hand bookshops of New York. Not the other way around.