London’s Bookshops – A Mecca for Bibliophiles

by Louisa Cornell

Anyone who knows me surely knows that London is one of my favorite places in the world. It is one of my happy places – the kind of place one might explore for years and never, ever grow tired. Another thing most people know about me is I have a penchant for collecting books. Should one wish to park me in a location, go about doing as one wishes, and be assured of finding me in that same location at the end of the day, a bookshop is that location.

Old books, antique books, are my guilty pleasure. A bookshop full of antique books is my idea of heaven. And I daresay when it comes to bookshops, London is home to some of the quirkiest, most specialized, oldest, and most fascinating bookshops in the world. If you share my love of booksellers and London this post is must reading for you.

Allow me to introduce you to some of London’s most interesting bookshops!

Atlantis Bookshop

49 A Museum Street

Atlantis Bookshop

Bloomsbury, London

A family-run bookshop for nearly 100 years and the living history of magic. London’s oldest independent occult bookshop. The Atlantis Bookshop was established in 1922 by magicians, for magicians. It is the birth-place of modern witchcraft, with Gerald Gardner holding regular coven meetings in the basement of the Shop. The Atlantis Bookshop is owned by Bali and Geraldine Beskin, a mother and daughter partnership. They are proud to be 3rd and 4th generation practitioners and multi-generation booksellers. All of the famous but now long-dead magicians – Aleister Crowley, Dion Fortune, W.B Yeats, Israel Regardie and Gerald Gardner to name a few – have passed through the sacred portal that is the front door to Atlantis.

Collinge and Clark Bookshop

13 Leigh Street, London

Collinge and Clark

Collinge & Clark was founded in 1989 and is situated between Russell Square Tube station and the British Library. Originally a partnership between Michael Collinge and Oliver Clark, the former retired in 2005. The shop has a medium-sized stock, ground-floor and basement, and specialises in Private Press books, Typography and the art of the book since William Morris. One large catalogue is issued a year and various occasional lists.

The Museum Bookshop Ltd

36 Great Russell Street, London

British Museum Bookshop

New and out of print books, specializing in Archaeology, Egyptology, Classics, Middle East, Musicology & Conservation, Prehistoric and Roman Britain, Medieval. As well as selling 350 British Museum titles, the shop sells 1,000 titles from other publishers.

 

Skoob Books Ltd.

66, The Brunswick

Skoob Books Ltd.

off Marchmont St, London

London’s broadest selection of second-hand academic books, including large collections of used books in Philosophy, Psychology, Modern Literature, Art, History, Politics, Economics, Classics, Science and Technology. A 2000 square foot shop (186 m2) that is crammed with over 55,000 different titles, and at the moment they’re replacing over 5,000 every month.

 

Jarndyce Antiquarian Booksellers

46, Great Russell Street – (opp. British Museum)

Jarndyce Antiquarian Booksellers

Jarndyce’s is the leading specialist in 18th and, particularly, 19th century English Literature & History books. They publish up to eight catalogues a year covering a wide variety of subjects.  Recent catalogues have included:  Dickens, 17th & 18th Century Books & Pamphlets, London, Women Writers, Language and Education, Economic, Social & Political History (including Philosophy), Books in Translation, Bloods and Penny Dreadfuls, Chapbooks & Broadsides, Yellowback novels, Plays & Theatre, and Newspapers.

The building in which it is housed was built in 1735 and has been a bookshop for over a hundred years. The ground floor was recently renovated to recreate a 19th century bookshop within an 18th century building, incorporating paneling, a working fireplace and original wooden floor. Number 46 Great Russell Street is reputed to be haunted; one sighting was of a Scotsman in a kilt, reading a book; others have felt a presence in the basement. So far the ghosts appear to be fairly benevolent. Readers are not, in general, a violent lot so long as the books and tea are in plentiful supply.

Hatchards (Picadilly)

187 Piccadilly, London

Hatchards Bookshop

Hatchards is London’s oldest bookshop. It was established in 1797 by John Hatchard and has occupied the same location on Piccadilly for over 200 years. Its place in the lore of Regency romance has made it an icon and a place of pilgrimage for readers and writers of the genre. It has served eight generations of customers from all over the world – from humble romance writers to the royalty of Europe. In fact, Hatchards currently holds three royal warrants.

These are just a few of London’s fascinating bookshops. Look for future posts for portraits of more unique and amazing booksellers in the city no bibliophile should miss.

I have included websites for these shops because all of them ship abroad, and in our current crisis many of these shops are in desperate need of business. Each of these shops employs knowledgeable people who will make it their top priority to discover that hard to find research book or old favorite novel for you. If you are in search of a particular quarantine read or simply wish to browse, these bookshops are an excellent way to wile away an afternoon. Tea, scones, and a comfy chair optional.

 

THE 2020 TOWN & COUNTRY HOUSE TOUR

A mix of town and country, this tour includes a blend of residences  from London townhouses to grand stately homes in an array of styles, complete with glorious gardens and each one filled with fabulous furnishings and artwork from various eras and complete with glorious gardens – Visit Kenwood House, Apsley House, the Wallace Collection, Waddesdon Manor, Syon Park, Osterley Park and Sir John Soane’s House.

Based in London, the Town and Country House Tour will allow you to visit a broad range of homes both in Town and in the surrounding countryside. Waddesdon Manor, above, was home to Baron de Rothschild and, along with Syon Park, Kenwood House and Osterley Park, is a fine example of the type of stately home built by prominent aristocrats whose interests were tied to London and who required proximity to the City.

Apsley House, home to the 1st Duke of Wellington, and the Wallace Collection, above, housed in the former home of Lord and Lady Hertford, will both offer glimpses into life in London’s grandest residences, while Sir John Soane’s Museum, Leighton House and 18 Stafford Terrace demonstrate how the homes of 19th century writers and artists would have appeared.

Syon House
Kenwood House
Sir John Soane’s Museum

In addition, guided walking tours will bring you to aristocratic areas, elegant squares and lesser known corners that will immerse you in the history of London and  bring the 18th and 19th centuries to life.

The complete itinerary for the Town and Country House Tour can be found here.

The Darker Side of London History

From The Horse-World of London by William John Gordon (1893)

Very few horses are allowed to end their days in peace, after long and faithful service, like the Duke of Wellington’s old charger Copenhagen, in the paddocks at Strathfieldsaye. London horses, in particular, rarely die natural deaths. Many of them are sent back into the country in a vain hope that they will ‘come round’; many of them are poleaxed for very shame at their miserable appearance; some of them slip and injure themselves beyond recovery in the streets.
A curious trade is that of the horse-slaughterer, who must not only have a licence, but carry on his operations in accordance with the 26th of George III. and other Acts of Parliament. No horse that enters his yard must come out again alive, or as a horse. The moment it enters those gates it must be disfigured by having its mane cut off so close to the skin as to spoil its value, and though it may be put in a ‘pound’ on the premises, which might better be called a condemned cell or a moribundary, it must not remain there for more than three days.
In Garratt Lane, Wandsworth, is the largest horseslaughtering yard in London. It has existed for about a hundred years. There it stands, practically odourless, by the banks of the winding Wandle, with a wide meadow in front of it and a firework factory next door, the magazine of which is within measurable distance of its boiler-house. One fine morning—it was really a beautiful morning—we found our way down the lane, along the field, armed with Mr. Boss’s permit, to be initiated by Mr. Milestone into the mysteries of a horse’s departure from the London world.
The last scene does not take long. In two seconds a horse is killed; in a little over half an hour his hide is in a heap of dozens, his feet are in another heap, his bones are boiling for oil, his flesh is cooking for cat’s meat. Maneless he stands; a shade is put over his eyes; a swing of the axe, and, with just one tremor, he falls heavy and dead on the flags of a spacious kitchen, which has a line of coppers and boilers steaming against two of its walls.
In a few minutes his feet are hooked up to crossbeams above, and two men pounce upon him to flay him; for the sooner he is ready the quicker he cooks. Slash, slash, go the knives, and the hide is peeled off about as easily as a tablecloth; and so clean and uninjured is the body that it looks like the muscle model we see in the books and in the plaster casts at the corn-chandler’s. Then, with full knowledge gained by almost life-long practice, for the trade is hereditary, the meat is slit off with razor-like knives, and the bones are left white and clean and yet unscraped, even the neck vertebrae being cleared in a few strokes—one of the quickest things in carving imaginable.
If there is any malformation the sweep of the knife is stayed for a moment; that is all. The same sort of thing has always been seen before, and there is no hesitation about the way to deal with it. No matter of what breed or age or condition the horse may be, his ‘boning’ is not delayed by peculiarities. And horses of all sorts, some of them sound and in the prime of life, here meet their doom—the favourite horse killed at his master’s death, to save him from falling into cruel hands: the runaway horse that has injured a daughter; the brute that has begun to kick and bite; the mildest mannered mare that has, perhaps, merely taken a wrong turn and made her mistress angry—all come here to die with the hundreds of the injured and the old. Taking them all round, the old and young and sound and ailing, they average out in the men’s opinion at rather over eleven years when they here meet their doom.
Soon the bare skeleton remains to be broken up and in baskets go aloft to be shot into a huge digester, where it is made to yield about a quarter hundredweight of oil. Following the oil, we see it cleared of its stearin, pressed out between huge sheets of paper, and remaining in white cakes like gauffres ready for the candle-makers; and we see the oil flowing limpid and clear into the tank above, from which it is barrelled off to be used eventually for lubricating and leather-dressing purposes.
Returning to the bones, we find them out on the flags, clean and free from grease, ready to be thrown into a mill, from which they emerge like granite from a stonebreaker, along a sloping cylindrical screen, which sorts the fragments into sizes varying up to half an inch. And stretching away from us are sacks, full to the brim with bones, all in rows like flour-sacks at a miller’s, all ready to go off to the manure merchants. And still further following the bones, we find some of them ground to powder and mixed with sulphuric acid to leave the premises as another form of fertiliser.
Having seen the bones off the premises, we follow the feet, of which we find a huge pile, not a trace of which will be left before the day is out. The skin and hoofs will go to the glue-makers and blue-makers; the bones will go to the button-makers; the old shoes will go to the farrier’s and be used over and over again, welded in the fire and hammered on the streets, so that all that is lost of a horseshoe is what rusts or is rubbed off in powder..-.
With a glance at the tails and manes, which will soon be lost in sofas, chairs, or fishing-lines, we reach the heap of hides, which will probably find its way to Germany to be made into the leather guards on cavalry trousers, or, maybe, stay in this country for carriage roofs and whip-lashes. This distribution of the dead horse may seem to be an odoriferous business, but the odours are reduced to a minimum by an elaborate ventilating system which draws off all the fumes and emanations into a line of pipes, and passes them over a wide furnace to be burnt, so that none of them reach the outer air.
But now for the ‘meat,’ which, cut into such joints as the trade require, has been boiling in the coppers and is now done to a turn, with just the central tint of redness and rawness that suits the harmless, necessary cat, while the ‘tripe ‘ is doing white in another copper to suit the palate of the less fastidious dog.
Harrison Barber, Limited, the successors of the once great Jack Atcheler, dead some thirty years since, kill 26,000 London horses a year. All night and all day the work goes on, this slaying and flaying, and boning and boiling down, and this cooking for feline food. Go to any of their depots between five and six o’clock in the morning, and you will find a long string of the pony traps and hand-carts, barrows and perambulators, used in the wholesale and retail cat’s-meat trade. The horse on an average yields 2 cwt. 3 qrs. of meat; 26,000 horses a year means 500 a week, which in its turn means 70 tons
of meat per week to feed the dogs and cats of London.
This is not all the ‘meat’ that is sold, nor all the London horses that are killed, for the horseflesh trade is large enough to employ thirty wholesale salesmen; but taking even this ten tons a day, we shall find it means 134,400 meals, inasmuch as a pound of meat cuts up into half a dozen ha’porths—the skewers being given in, though it takes half a ton of them to fix up a day’s consumption. Here is another item for the forest conservation people! 182 tons of deal used a year in skewering up the horses made into meat by Harrison Barber!
Sometimes there is a glut of the aged and the maimed, and the supply of meat exceeds the demand. To cope with this difficulty a complete refrigerating plant is at work at Wandsworth, cooling the larders, in which two hundred and fifty horses can be stored; which larders are not only a revelation, but a welcome surprise.
A door is opened and shut, and we stand in the darkness between two doors in an air lock; the inner door is opened and a shiver of cold runs through us as a match is struck and a candle lighted; and there in front is what looks like a deep cave in an arctic drift. Around us are piles of meat, all hard as stone and glittering with ice crystals; overhead, and at the back of all, the beams and walls are thick with pure clinging snow; and from above a few flakes fall as the door closes on the silvery cloak that wraps the last to leave the Horse World of London.

HORWOOD’S MAP OF REGENCY LONDON

Do you know about Richard Horwood’s map of London? Completed in 1799, it was the most detailed map of the City to date, displaying the footprint of houses, public buildings and parks, even down to contemporary house numbers. A description of the map reads as follows –

Richard Horwood’s PLAN of the Cities of LONDON and WESTMINSTER the Borough of SOUTHWARK, and PARTS adjoining Shewing every HOUSE was produced between 1792 and 1799.  It consists of thirty-two printed sheets displaying an area stretching from the middle of Hyde Park in the west to Limehouse in the east and from the southern edge of Islington in the north to the southern fringes of Kennington and Walworth in the south, a zone six miles across and three miles and three furlongs from north to south.  Each individual sheet is 19 3/4 inches across and 21 5/8 of an inch high; when assembled, the full map is more than thirteen feet (or four metres) across and over seven feet (2.2 metres) high.  Horwood’s was the first map of London to attempt to show every individual property in every street in London, so it’s extremely detailed, even including contemporary house numbers.

Now, you can purchase a copy of the sections of Horwood’s map pertaining to the areas of fashionable London. The two large, blueprint sized sheets (30″ x 44″) show the area from Brompton Row and Southampton Row in the west to Somerset House in the east, and from Bedford Square in the north to Hans Place and Stangate Street in the south.

To order, send $34 via PayPal Friends and Family to london20@aol.com – Price includes the map (two blueprint sized sheets) and shipping. Don’t forget to provide your mailing address when ordering.

A New View of 1815 London

By Victoria Hinshaw

A very exciting exhibition featuring a Panorama of London begins March 15  at the Museum of London, and will run until September 2019.  This extraordinary work was executed as a study for a panorama that was shown in Paris from 1816-1819 by artist Pierre Prévost. The full-sized work, several times larger than these studies, is now lost. One newspaper referred to the work as “London as the Duke of Wellington would have seen it.” Others have noted it is the London Jane Austen knew.

The artist, Pierre Prévost (1764-1823), viewed London from the bell tower of St  Margaret’s Church, adjacent to Westminster Abbey.

St. Margaret’s Church, London; note Big Ben behind the trees to the left

The first view in the scan above looks west from the edge of Westminster Abbey (at the left edge); the large building in the center, above, is the now-demolished Middlesex Guildhall and in the distance is St. James Park, and in a better reproduction, you can see Buckingham House, the palace, as it was in 1815.

Above, the studies split in half. The top image is west and north; the bottom image is east and south.

The Sotheby’s Auction Catalogue description:

Pierre Prévost – MONTIGNY-LE-GANNELON 1764 – 1823 PARIS

A PANORAMIC VIEW OF LONDON, FROM THE TOWER OF ST. MARGARET’S CHURCH, WESTMINSTER
Watercolour and bodycolour over pencil, squared for transfer in pencil, the squares numbered, on multiple sheets of paper laid onto canvas 850 by 6050 mm.

Looking north up Whitehall, the Banqueting House is seen at the curve; the steeple in the distance is St. Martin’s-in-the-Fields but Trafalgar Square which it faces today, was not yet created. The Sotheby’s Catalogue states, “To the centre of the composition, one can see the only remaining component of the Palace of Whitehall, the Banqueting House. Designed by the leading English architect Inigo Jones (1573-1652), the Banqueting House was commissioned by Charles I; in 1649, just 27 years after its construction, it was the site of his execution.  The neoclassical St. Martin-in-the-Fields stands nearby. The site of a church since the medieval period, this had been re-built by James Gibbs in the 1720s. Prévost’s view shows the area prior to the construction of Trafalgar Square in the 1820s, and the church of St. Martin-in-the-Fields would therefore have appeared considerably different to how it does today. Contemporary accounts of the area describe the church as crowded in by surrounding buildings, which detract from the impressive nature of Gibbs’ edifice.”

Above, looking northeast, beyond Westminster bridge one see the City, mercifully shorn of its tall buildings with the outline of St. Paul’s Cathedral on the horizon slightly left of center.

The view above looks east across the Thames, with the Westminster Bridge on the left and the roof of Westminster Hall parallel to the river in the center. The buildings in the foreground were various elements of the Palace of Westminster which burned in 1834 and were replaced by today’s Houses of Parliament, also known as the Palace of Westminster, incorporating the ancient and restored Westminster Hall.

The final sections, above and below, feature Westminster Abbey in its smoke darkened coating.

In the Georgian era, panoramas were popular exhibitions. The first opened in London in 1792 and according to The Guardian, viewers paid three shillings to view the painting which curved around a room “dramatically” lit.

In preparing this post, I was surprised to learn that the Museum of London is planning to move its entire Barbican operation to a new site in the old Smithfield Market, also located in the City of London. No doubt they will construct a fine exhibit space for this painting when they complete their plans and move, sometime in the next decade.

Being from Milwaukee, Wisconsin, I have occasionally run across the stories of the German Panorama Painters who came to the city in the mid-19th century and painted many of these works installed in various cities.  The only remaining one I know of is in Atlanta,  Georgia, and recently reopened as the Cyclorama in the Civil War Museum.

However, the only panorama I have ever seen is the one that still exists in Waterloo, Belgium, picturing the famous battle in 1815 when the Duke of Wellington led the Allied forces to victory over the emperor Napoleon, pictured below.

More details  about the London Panorama from the Sotheby’s  catalogue:

“Of extraordinary size, detail and topographical accuracy, this view of London is a remarkable preparatory study for a lost panorama of approximately 30 metres in diameter, by Pierre Prévost, which shows the artist at the pinnacle of a highly successful career as a panoramist …. The illusion of depth, height and distance is testament to Prévost’s ability to work on such a large scale, and this complete, circular image, joined at Westminster Abbey, is one of the finest drawings of its type to have survived….

“By 1800 panoramas could be viewed in many European capitals. The works were usually exhibited for a short period of time in a rotunda, before travelling on, and ultimately were replaced or sold. The nature of this process has ensured the rarity of the completed panorama, as excessive handling and transportation in most cases resulted in their ultimate destruction.”

The Sotheby’s catalogue entry states: “While the final canvas created by Prévost would have been very much larger (it was exhibited in a purpose built rotunda on the rue Neuve Saint-Augustin in Paris, measuring 32 metres in diameter, over five times the size of this preparatory drawing), even this preliminary study is of an impressive size, and is highly finished ….

“The street scenes in the foreground bring a sense of life to the panorama, and allow the viewer to engage fully with the daily activity of the city’s inhabitants….Here, shops and professions are indicated in the foreground in remarkable detail. On Great George Street, the road running horizontally across the centre foreground, the shops include a wine and brandy merchant and a solicitor, whilst on Bridge Street, which runs towards Westminster Bridge, an apothecary, a shoe-maker and a children’s clothes store are indicated. ”

I hope many people enjoy seeing the London Panorama of 1815.