Jon Hammer and Karen McBurnie of Grade “A” Fancy enter a private world
One of the many advantages of living in the city is the opportunity to temporarily live out of your league. A perch at the most posh cocktail lounge brings an hour of the good life at perhaps $25 per drink, but without the expense of maintaining a Park Avenue address. Private clubs are essentially the definition of “how the other half lives,” but a number of them open their doors to the hoi polloi for lectures or gallery exhibits, often for a very affordable free admission.
One recent rainy Saturday we popped in at the Grolier Club, a private society of bibliophiles, for a look at their current exhibit and, not incidentally, a bit of a snoop. While the midtown streets teemed with tourists and shoppers, we had the gallery to ourselves for most of our visit. The show this month is called Selling the Dwelling: The Books That Built America’s Houses, 1775-2000. Rare books, magazines and printed ephemera tell the story of how individual home ownership was marketed to Americans, first through eighteen century builders’ guides and nineteenth century fashion periodicals, on through pre-fab building promotions and house plan catalogues. We spent a hunk of time ooh-ing over the 1920s section entitled “Bungalows: Artful Houses for the Common Man.”
The Grolier Club is dedicated to the rarest and finest in the art of the book. The galleries host exhibits open to the public free of charge. It is a joy to be reminded, in our digital age, the real beauty of books not just as vehicles for ideas, but as physical objects.