S.F. Vanni, the legendary Italian bookstore that operated in New York City from 1884 to 2004, is reopening this month as “a pop-up bookstore and cultural space” under the auspices of Centro Primo Levi at the store’s longtime home at 30 W. 12th Street. “The goal is not to revive the old traditional bookstore, but to re-imagine it for today,” Centro Primo Levi said.
At the same time, Centro Primo Levi’s CPL Editions, the e-book and POD publisher dedicated to the history of Italian Jews, run in association with OR Books, will operate from the S.F. Vanni space.
The location has been revamped so that one room is “a multifunctional space for book presentations, lectures and film screenings” and the other “with the original books sold and published by S.F. Vanni, many of them rare editions, will be preserved as ‘urban archeology.’ ”
Centro Primo Levi board member Stella Levi imagines the space as “something between a beit midrash [a study hall] and a salon, a living space where a variety of events will take place.” Centro Primo Levi director Alessandro Cassin also envisions it as tribute to “a long tradition of Italian and Jewish family-based publishers that strongly impacted the surrounding culture.”
CPL Editions’ six inaugural titles are:
Primo Levi, The Friend by Bianca Guidetti Serra
Return from Erfurt–Story of a Shattered Childhood: 1935-1945 by Olga Tarcali
‘I Am Counting on You, on Everyone…’ Eight Letters from Fossoli, 1944 by Gemma Vitale Servadio
Skirmishes on Lake Ladoga–Venice to Rome: In Flight from the Racial Laws by Roberto Bassi
Gather What You Can and Flee: Jewish Intellectual Emigration from Fascist Italy by Annalisa Capristo
A Silver Martian–Normality and Segregation in Primo Levi’s Sleeping Beauty in the Fridgeby Paola Mieli
S.F. Vanni founded his eponymous bookstore in 1884 on West Broadway. Under longtime owner Andrea Ragusa, the store was on Bleecker Street before moving to W. 12th St. For many years, S.F. Vanni was the main supplier of Italian books and periodicals in New York City and to libraries and universities throughout the U.S. and Canada. After Ragusa’s death, his daughters took over the shop. The Centro Primo Levi thanked Olga Ragusa for “her enthusiasm, generosity and love for books.”