Albertine is one of my favorite bookstores simply by merit of its lovely ceiling. Ascend the steps to the second floor of the bookshop, and you’ll find yourself among the azure heavens. Painted in gleaming gold, planets spiral in their orbits towards the sun, as tiny golden stars assume their places in constellations on this splendid ceiling.
Albertine is NYC’s only French-English bookshop. It is run by the cultural services department of the French Embassy. If you are a Francophone, or merely aspiring, you will appreciate the impressive collection of French books in every genre.
The bookstore is located in the historic Payne Whitney mansion, built in 1902 as a wedding gift. The wealthy Whitney family was influential during a critical time in New York City’s development. As you explore NYC, you’ll come across many institutions bearing the family name.
Now, have a seat with a book on one of the tufted leather couches, and simply enjoy being in this room that dedicates itself to beauty and expression through art and literature. Here is a poem about stars by my favorite New York poet:
by Langston Hughes, 1921
O, sweep of stars over Harlem streets,
O, little breath of oblivion that is night.
A city building
To a mother’s song.
A city dreaming
To a lullaby.
Reach up your hand, dark boy, and take a star.
Out of the little breath of oblivion
That is night,