The bookshop's name was taken from a line in the banned book Jurgen, by James Branch Cabell: 'Up on my back,' said the Centaur, 'and I will take you thither.' The association with Jurgen 'lent a mild wickedness to the enterprise,' Mason recalled. When importation of Lady Chatterley's Lover, considered at the time to be as sinful as booze, was prohibited, Mason arranged for a shipment of a case of books, after the spines had been replaced with those of another book of the same size.
|From the Bluebird Collection:|
Poster by Andy Beach for ICA, Centaur block print by Wendy and Marvin Hill.
A room over the shop became an after-hours gathering place for select patrons, artists, people of letters, and other friends. It was, like a Greenwich Village salon, bohemian and arty. This was during Prohibition, and 'in' members had their own liquor lockers and keys to the room. The outgoing Wharton [Esherick] was quickly inducted into the club, and he made a sign to hang over the door, a modernist centaur of wood and bent iron straps (the 'sign of the Centaur')."
-- From Wharton Esherick: Journey of a Creative Mind, by Mansfield Bascom, Abrams, 2010, reproduced in a pamphlet from the Excursus I: Reference Library at the Institute of Contemporary Art, University of Philadelphia