Multimedia reporter

Rare Bookstore, Skyline Books, Closes Doors After 20 Years

DAILY NEWS, published 3 February, 2010

Say goodbye to yet another dusty, musty piece of vanishing Manhattan.

All that’s now left of Skyline Books is a sign in the window reading “End of an Era. Thanks for 20 Great Years.”

That’s how long Robert Warren’s used book store at 13 W. 18th St. lasted – a kind of hole-in- the-wall home to a universe of rare books, from first editions of Beat Generation classics like “The Dharma Bums,” to pornographic Italian comics to an autographed copy of Charles Bukowski’s “Post Office.”

But last Saturday, Warren, 55, bid the neighborhood farewell. He says he can’t afford to renew the lease, which increased by more than 50%.

“The evils are three,” he said, combing through a copy of an $8,000 first edition of “Les Americans” by Robert Frank. “The big book chains, and online auctions like eBay.”

For years, the Bronx native collected books, scouting for them at fairs and estate sales.

Warren says Skyline Books was his life, its employees his family, among them his “fiancée,” Linda, a 12-year-old, 15-pound gray tabby cat fond of jumping the shelves.

“Linda is the manager in command,” said human store manager Christopher Cosgrove. “She is cold with dogs but super-friendly with customers.”

“You know why I come here?” asked Joseph Jesselli, a reporter for, a couple of days before the closing. “For the creaking floor, the dust, the feeling of a book in your hands.”

Others would show up just to meet other bibliophiles.

“This place was a communion between people who love books and history,” said Jennifer Parkhurst, a former English teacher who was flipping through “First Selected Poems” by William Packard, whom she called a friend.

Last week, Warren was walking around his racks, reshuffling travel guides and philosophy pamphlets, making sure they were not trashed by customers.

“For them, they are just books,” he said, picking up a children’s tale, “Horseshoe Tree” by Lucy Daniels and stroking it. “But I know them one by one.”

Warren plans to donate most of his collection – about 10,000 books valued at $75,000 – to New Alternatives, a nonprofit that works with homeless kids. Warren says he wants to share his treasure trove with younger generations.

For himself, Warren will only keep a bright red poster, a Republican banner from the Spanish Civil War, which he plans to put in his living room. Many customers had inquired about buying the poster, but were rebuffed by the steep asking price – $10,000. That’s a joke, because it’s actually not for sale.

“Sometimes there are things that have no price,” Warren said. “Like this shop; it was my baby.”

Karina Ioffee contributed reporting and editing