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Benjamin the Bookseller

Lawrence Bush
September 16, 2017

Benjamin Gomez, the first Jewish bookseller in America, was born on this date in 1769. He was a fourth-generation American whose family home in Marlboro, New York, the Gomez Mill House, is the oldest existing Jewish dwelling in North America, on the National Register of Historic Places. Gomez opened his shop at 32 Maiden Lane in Manhattan in 1791. Among the books he offered were the religious, the historical, and the scientific. By 1792 he had become a publisher, producing an edition of Pilgrim’s Progress in 1794, an abridgement of Robinson Crusoe in 1795, and many more volumes with the mark, “Printed by Benjamin Gomez.”

“[H]e must have been fairly well known in the New York that was steadily pushing its streets northward into the wide salt marshes and farming lands of Manhattan Island…. Some of the periwigged merchants who were gathered under a buttonwood tree on Wall Street to form the first stock exchange undoubtedly had that taste in fine editions… [and] Benjamin Gomez was conveniently at hand to sell them books.” —Charles G. Poore

​​​​Lawrence Bush edited Jewish Currents from 2003 until 2018. He is the author of Bessie: A Novel of Love and Revolution and Waiting for God: The Spiritual Explorations of a Reluctant Atheist, among other books. His new volume of illustrated Torah commentaries, American Torah Toons 2, is scheduled for publication this year.