EAST VILLAGE — The struggling St. Mark's Bookshop is auctioning rare books, many scribbled with the authors' own notes, to raise money as it searches for a new space.
The online auction, which started Tuesday and runs through Dec. 15, features about 50 books, ranging from a signed copy of "The Prophet of Tenth Street" by Tsipi Keller to a first-edition box set of "Maus" that has been signed, heavily notated and illustrated by the author Art Spiegelman.
The 36-year-old St. Mark's Bookshop, at Third Avenue and Stuyvesant Street, has struggled to pay rent increases in recent years before reaching a reduced-rent agreement with its landlord, Cooper Union, last year. However, the rent is still $17,500 per month, more than the bookstore can afford to pay in the long run.
The bookstore has been searching for a smaller storefront for more than a year and has not signed a lease yet, but the owners say they are hopeful about a potential location on East Third Street.
"We have been trying to move now for at least a year and a half," said bookshop co-owner Terry McCoy. "Often you think you have a deal right in your hand and then it doesn't work out."
He declined to give specifics on the potential Third Street space, since other deals have fallen through at the last minute.
McCoy hopes the auction will raise thousands of dollars to go toward the move and replenishing the store's stock. Starting prices for the auctioned books range from $100 to $2,500.
"If you are a scholar or a fan of one of these writers, the books should be very interesting," he said.
The online auction will be halted for a few hours on Thursday night for a live auction at the bookstore, where patrons will have a chance to outdo the online bidders for a select group of books.
Some of the standouts on the digital auction block are by the "queen of downtown poetry," Anne Waldman, according to McCoy.
"She gave us several books, including a marked-up manuscript," he said.
Fans of fantasy horror writer Peter Straub can bid for books that are filled with his notes, including ideas for characters and details on where scenes were set, according to McCoy.
"Those books are a treasure trove for fans of his," he said.