Pioneer bookseller

A bookstore in downtown Jerusalem for more than a century mirrors the development of Israel

Marcel Marcus 521 (photo credit: Marc Israel Sellem)
Marcel Marcus 521
(photo credit: Marc Israel Sellem)
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Who says there are no jokes about booksellers? One day, a bookseller won the national lottery. Asked about his plans, he replied, “I’ll just keep selling books until the prize money runs out.”
Selling books is indeed a difficult business, but, separated by over a century, two German Jews have successfully operated a bookshop from downtown Jerusalem. The first, Ludwig Mayer, founded the store in 1908 and my father, Marcel Marcus, took over in 1994. Much about the store has remained unchanged. Post office box, telephone number and the address are the same since the 1930s. The iconic logo, an owl hovering over Hebrew and Latin initials, remains the same, too.
At the nearby Jerusalem Central Post Office, where Marcus ships and receives daily parcels of books, people invariably call him Ludwig. But despite all that, there have also been changes, many of which seem indicative of the transformation Israel experienced over the last 100 years.
Ludwig Mayer was born to a family of respected wool merchants in Prenzlau, northeast of Berlin, in 1879. He came from a religious, Zionist family and at a very early age decided to open a bookshop in Jerusalem.
After apprenticing as a bookseller, he presented the World Zionist Organization with his plans, only to be disappointed.
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