Today the books that have the faded mark “Printed by Benjamin Gomez” are almost as scarce as knowledge about the young man who in the second decade after the Revolution offered these hostages to oblivion. And yet, he 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. Aaron Burr could hardly have avoided stopping in Maiden Lane to look over the new books Benjamin Gomez had received by the latest sailing ships from Europe. Occasionally that fiery duelist might encounter in the Gomez bookshop the gentleman he was later to refer to as “My friend Hamilton, whom I shot.” 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 best satisfied by the elaborately solvent. Benjamin Gomez was conveniently at hand to sell them books. He was also there to supply the literary wants of a Mr. Fitch, who was making quite a spectacle of himself at the time by navigating an affair he was pleased to call a steamboat, on the doomed waters of the Collect Pond. And there were many other patrons in the growing seaport for a bookseller who could offer the new novels from abroad and the seasoned classics, a wide variety of travel and history books and an appalling number of Baedekers to redemption.
“Benjamin Gomez, Bookseller and Stationer, No. 32, Maiden Lane, near the Flymarket,” they would note in the public prints of the town, “has received by the late arrivals from Europe, and by the Union, Capt. Snow, late from Dublin, an addition to his former assortment of books, amongst which are..” Then they would go around to No. 32 to see whether they wanted to buy any of the new books… For the advertisement gave only a very hurried and compressed list of what the literary minded New Yorker of the late eighteenth century might choose to read. There were volumes of sermons by Whitfield, Blair, Swift, Muir, “and a number of religious books too tedious to mention.”
He belonged to the fourth generation of his family in America when he was born here in 1769, and he was, so far as I can find, the first Jewish bookseller in New York. His greatgrandfather was Lewis Moses Gomez, who came to the Colonial town that had caused so much trouble for the Duke of York at the turn of the eighteenth century. Benjamin’s father was Matthias, and his mother was Rachel Gomez. The male line of that family ended when Benjamin’s son, Matthias, was killed in a duel in New Orleans, in 1833, but the name has come down through the descendants of his greatuncles.
By Charles G. Poore [from Gomez Hill House]
. The Wonderful Life and Most Surprising Adventures of that Renowned Hero, Robinson Crusoe, Who lived Twenty-eight Years on an Uninhabited Island, Which he afterwards Colonized., Printed by Hurtin & Commardinger, for Benjamin Gomez, 1795