January 20, 2020

Perhaps one of the most famous quotes of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., whom we celebrate today, was, “I look to a day when people will not be judged by the color of their skin, but by the content of their character.”

Lauded as one of the greatest sopranos of the 20th Century, Leontyne Price was also an intelligent woman with a strong character. Unfortunately, her early career was unquestionably stalled by the color of her skin, but on this day in particular, it is important to see how eventually her talent, dedication to work,  and character overcame bigotry and led her to a career as a leading performer at the Metropolitan Opera and most major opera houses around the world.

After years of singing and playing accompaniment for church choirs, Ms. Price thought she might be a music teacher, but others realized her voice was extraordinary and helped her to a Julliard scholarship. In 1948, when she entered Julliard the world was a sad place.  It would still be another seven years before the Metropolitan Opera signed its first black singer, Marian Anderson.  There weren’t a lot of opportunities for a black classical singer, so Ms. Price spent an inordinate number of years singing Porgy and Bess across America and Europe.

Then she started to arrive. In 1956, Ms. Price became the first African American in a leading role in a televised opera, singing Tosca.  She developed a close working partnership with Herbert Van Karajan, a famously difficult and demanding conductor who saw her as “the artist of the future.” They worked for many years together. She was the first black woman to sing at La Scala in Milan, and then at the MET she commanded the role of Aida from her debut in 1961 until the last time she sang it 25 years later in the 1984-85 season. She was “Musican of the Year,” on the cover of Time, and Kennedy Center Honoree. The crowning moment of her career was when she was asked to star in the inaugural production at the new Metropolitan Opera House. All the while she won acclaim and added more and more difficult roles to her repertoire.  She frequently was asked to entertain at The White House, and she even wrote the children’s book version of Aida that became the basis of the Broadway musical. On September 30, 2001 at 74, she performed at a memorial for 9/11 victims in Carnegie Hall, singing “God Bless America”— unaccompanied.

Even with all of the racial hatred we see in 2020, if you weren’t alive back to the 50s it is hard to imagine how enormous, Ms. Price’s achievement was. Yes, she had a tremendous, gorgeous instrument, but it takes a great deal more, and she used her intelligence to raise her performances to the highest emotional and artistic level. Perhaps just as importantly, she never forgot her upbringing, her family and who she was as a person. At the end of recitals, she always performed “This Little Light of Mine — I’m Gonna Let it Shine,” which seems to say a lot about her humility and how she felt about her role in making the world a little more civilized.

Ms. Price avoided the term African American, preferring to call herself an American, even a “chauvinistic American. In a television interview he summed up her philosophy this way: “If you are going to think black, think positive about it. Don’t think down on it, or think it is something in your way. And this way, when you really do want to stretch out, and express how beautiful black is, everybody will hear you.”

We will leave you with two recordings on YouTube, one of Ms. Price singing the popular Gershwin tune “Summertime” and a recording of “O patria mia” from Aida, which some believe has never been sung as well by anyone else. The visual technology of the time isn’t ideal, but the voice and sound are wonderful. The soul is immeasurable—a manifestation of her character.

We are still far from Dr. King’s goal, but there are some stalwart souls that make us realize how different — and how much richer — the world would be if only we would be truly just.

Leontyne Price maintained an office in the St. James Building for many years, and her kindness to Kew staff members is still remembered.

December 13, 2019

We have told you about the remarkable rare book shop and tenant Pryor-Johnson Rare Books, ABAA in an earlier post. If you are looking for a great gift for the literary, artistic or otherwise erudite people on your list, Pryor-Johnson might be your one-stop shopping destination this holiday season—particularly as Kew tenants will get a 10% discount from now until the end of December.

Here are some selected books from the Pryor-Johnson collection to give you a sense of its rich offerings.  There are art and design titles particularly appropriate for holiday giving, but you’ll also find a vast range of books, from art and photography to signed first editions, poetry and Beat literature (much signed), limited editions, books about books and a wide selection of antiquarian books, from English literature to religion, history, natural science and cookery. Gift cards are also available for the truly difficult-to-shop-for.

More than gifts for book lovers this is a place to find gifts for those who love life and all the discoveries yet to be made.


An Incredible Collector’s Item Bringing Together Stein, Thomson and Picasso

Gertrude Stein (words) and Virgil Thomson (music). Picasso. [New York]: JHW Editions, [ca. 1997]. Numbered 82 of 300 copies.

Finely printed on Rives BFK and Arches Wove paper by the Stinehour Press. Four homages to Picasso: three by Stein and one, musical and represented by a CD, by Thomson.

Presented in a red cloth clamshell case, printed in gold. An extraordinary collaboration across time of three of the twentieth century’s most idiosyncratic artists.


18th Century American Decorative Arts

Perfect for the Interior Designers and Historians as well as the Art Lovers on Your List

Edwin J. Hipkiss. Eighteenth-Century American Arts. The M. and M. Karolik Collection… Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press for the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston; 1941. First edition.

A landmark text in the study of American decorative arts. Maxim Karolik, a Russian émigré, married Martha Codman, a Boston Brahmin, scandalizing Boston society. Richly illustrated and amply described, this collection, donated by the Karoliks, forms the core of the American decorative and fine arts collection at the MFA, which built a new wing to house it.


Jardins des Médicis

A Stunning Review of Italy’s Most Beautiful Gardens

Cristina Acidini Luchinat (ed.). Jardins de Médicis. Jardins des palais et des villas dans la Toscane du Quattrocento. Milan: Actes Sud/Federico Motta Editore, 1997. French edition, translated from the Italian.

A work as scholarly as it is decorative, comprising the surviving gardens of the palazzi of the Medici in Tuscany and the works of the artists in the Medicisphere, from Paolo Uccello to Botticelli and Michelangelo. Sumptuously printed, this may be the loveliest book with footnotes. Presented in the publisher’s slip-case.



A Sumptuous Collection of the Work by One of the 20th Century’s Most Sensuous Photographers

Valentine Lawford. Horst. His Work and His World. New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 1984. First edition.

Now scarce and quite desirable, this is the great monographic treatment of the twentieth century’s most iconic portraitists and fashion photographers. Simply put: he shot everybody. Lavishly illustrated and with a list of acknowledgements from Brooke Astor to Diana Vreeland, this book is without equal.


The Work of John S. Sargent R.A.

The First Major Survey of the Works of One of England’s Greatest Portraitists

J.B. Manson and Mrs. Meynell (introd.). The Work of John S. Sargent R.A. London: William Heinemann/New York: Charles Scribner’s Sons, 1927. First edition, limited; numbered 256 of 360 copies.

Sargent, the greatest Edwardian portrait painter, had died only two years prior to this publication, making this the first major retrospective of the society artist par excellence. Luxuriously illustrated with tissue-guarded engravings, books of this scale are no longer attempted.


An Illustrated History of English Plate

The Rare and Definitive Work on English Silver for the Curator or for the Enthusiast

Charles James Jackson. An Illustrated History of English Plate Ecclesiastical and Secular… London: Country Life & B.T. Batsford, 1911. Two volumes. First edition.

The staggering and definitive work on English silver from its earliest examples through the Georgian period, the product of years of research and indefatigable erudition. With a colored frontispiece, seventy-six photogravures (engraved photographs) and a further fifteen-hundred illustrations. A reference work without parallel, luxurious in line with the quality of its subject.


Luca & Andrea Della Robbia

A Seminal Text for All Renaissance Men and Women

Maud Cruttwell. Luca & Andrea Della Robbia and their successors. London: J.M. Dent & Co./New York: E.P. Dutton & Co., 1902. With over 150 illustrations. First edition.

Cruttwell ranks as one of the greatest art-historians of the turn of the century. She began as Bernard Berenson’s housekeeper (!) and went on to write what remain some of the standard works on Italian Renaissance artists: Donatello, Pollaiuolo, Verrocchio and others. Her sharp eye is matched by her sharp prose style, neither of which is matched by the art-historians of today.


You’ll find these but many more treasures, including first editions and autographed works that perfectly fit the special people on your list—no matter their interests in medium or period — poetry, design, fiction, classic, Elizabethan, modern.  Stop by, and have a chat (and a drink!) with David and Jonah.  They will remind you how civilized the world and shopping can still be.

Pryor-Johnson Rare Books, ABAA
1123 Broadway, Suite 517
New York, NY 10010
(212) 452-1990


Hours: Monday–Saturday 11–6, or by chance or appointment
Email: info@pryorjohnsonrarebooks.com

June 6, 2019

According to the Wall Street Journal, the tech tycoon Jeff Bezos has purchased three apartments in 212 Fifth Avenue for $80 million. The penthouse apartment and two units on the floor below it that were purchased by Bezos in May could be combined into a 12-bedroom, 17,000-square-foot home in the heart of NoMad.

Directly across from 1123 and 1133 Broadway, 212 Fifth Avenue has been described by StreetEasy as an “iconic neo-Gothic early skyscraper.” As such, it fits perfectly into the fabric of the neighborhood, which features so many fine examples of varied architectural styles including Kew’s own buildings. In fact, 212 is located on the site of the Gilded Age’s most famous restaurants— Delmonicos and Café Martin, which were frequented by the likes of Oscar Wilde, Mark Twain, and Stanford White.

Built as a commercial building, 212 was converted to condominiums in 2012, many of which boast exceptional views of Madison Square Park and the city beyond.

It is no surprise that Jeff Bezos, the chief executive of Amazon and reportedly the richest man in the world, has chosen 212 Fifth Avenue for his new Manhattan pad. It provides a rare opportunity for an enormous home, it’s in a vibrant creative/tech neighborhood, has wonderful views of the city, and offers the privacy he will likely welcome.

Bezos’s purchase comes despite the recent decision not to move forward with the plan to build a new headquarters in New York City. Nevertheless, Amazon still employs roughly 5,000 people in the city, and has a growing presence through its increasing number of retail stores. It has also been reported that Amazon has been looking for 100,000 square feet of new office space on the West Side of Manhattan.

We are happy to welcome Jeff Bezos as a neighbor, and perhaps after he sees the unique life/work balance that NoMad has to offer, he will be searching for office space closer to home.

March 11, 2019

Rizzoli’s next studio session in its Aperitivo Series will present the New York debut of the exciting new J.A.I Trio, featuring three virtuosos—(J)enny Choi, Violin, (A)l—Aejandro Montiel, Guitar, and (I)saac Bustos, Guitar.

The trio met at a festival in Austin, Texas three years ago and have joined forces to create a beautiful sonic combination. On Saturday March 16, 2019 at 5:00 p.m., they will present a program of music spanning classical, contemporary, and tango works by Astor Piazzolla, John Truitt, Preston Stahley, Antonio Rojas, Arvo Pärt, and Clarice Assad. The concert will be held right here in Rizzoli’s Bookstore at 1133 Broadway, between 25th and 26th Streets.

To listen to a preview playlist of the concert please click here 

To purchase tickets: Please RSVP to mhuston@rizzoliusa.com. Tickets may be purchased at the door for $20 and include complimentary Prosecco. If you do not receive a confirmation email within 24 hours it means your RSVP has not been received, so please write again.

Rizzoli Music Aperitivo is sponsored by Mionetto Prosecco and curated by Mondo Jazz, the weekly Radio Free Brooklyn show dedicated to international jazz.

February 27, 2019

Rizzoli has announced that the next performance in its groundbreaking Aperitivo Series will be this coming Sunday March 3, 2019 at 5:00 p.m.  The concert will be in Rizzoli’s beautifully designed space right here in 1133 Broadway.

Pyeng Threadgill will be performing selections from the vinyl release of her latest album Head Full of Hair, Heart Full of Song, which explores natural hair, ancestry, and adornment as sources of power for Black women and women of color.  She will also be offering selections from her previous album Portholes to a Love & Other Short Stories inspired by short stories by world renowned authors such as Jamaica Kincaid, Isabelle Allende and Jhumpa Lahiri.

Joining Pyeng will be guitarist Andy Bianco and drummer Evan Pazner.

You can listen to a preview playlist of the concert here.

To purchase tickets: Please RSVP to mhuston@rizzoliusa.com. Tickets may be purchased at the door for $20 and include complimentary Prosecco. If you do not receive a confirmation email within 24 hours it means your RSVP has not been received, so please write again.

Rizzoli Music Aperitivo is sponsored by Mionetto Prosecco and curated by Mondo Jazz, the weekly Radio Free Brooklyn show dedicated to international jazz.

September 27, 2018

Luke’s Lobster in NoMad is celebrating National Lobster Day with $14 lobster rolls.

National Lobster Day, an official holiday declared by Congress, was on September 25th. This month, Luke’s Lobster, located in the heart of NoMad, is celebrating the company’s 9th birthday. In celebration of both of these milestones, Luke’s Lobster is selling lobster rolls at their original 2009 price of $14.

This special promotion is available for walk-ins and orders through the Luke’s Lobster app at the company’s NoMad location, as well as for all catering orders. It is not available through Seamless, GrubHub, or other third-party ordering platforms.

We will be enjoying one, and hope you can, too!

Luke’s Lobster (NoMad)
5 West 25th Street
New York, NY 10010
(646) 657-0747


Sunday – Thursday: 11 am – 9 pm
Friday – Saturday 11 am – 10 pm