di James Barron 

In the 1970s, a rope stretched across an aisle amid the stacks of books that climbed like stalagmites from the basement floor of the Strand Bookstore in Manhattan. Whether it was there to keep the customers out, or a certain employee in, remains unclear.

That employee was Burt Britton. If he did venture outside the rope, he was capable of endlessly “discoursing, more or less simultaneously, on every book in the place,” as the critic Anatole Broyard wrote in 1976. For years before he was hired, Mr. Britton had spent his days there as a customer, browsing and reading.

Mr. Britton, who was 84 when he died on July 21 at his apartment in Manhattan, went on to become a partner in another bookstore and was a collector of celebrity self-portraits, along with a mass of books of his own. He was also the kind of idiosyncratic New York personality who was not a household name but influenced the influential.

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