The Warburg Institute

University of London, School of Advanced Study
Woburn Square, WC1H 0AB
020 7862 8949
Goodge St and Russell Sq LU

Access restricted to postgraduate students and researchers

door Warburg Institute_LR


This exceptional library is dedicated to European cultural history, and is based upon the collection of the German banking heir, Aby Warburg. Warburg dedicated his life to the study of human expression and the transmission of ideas across space and time. For this purpose he compiled and organised a library of around 60,000 books. After Warburg’s death in 1929, the threat posed by the rise of the Nazis led to the migration of the library and institute to London. After the Second World War the Institute was incorporated into the University of London and since 1958 has been housed in a purpose built building on Woburn Square. Over the years the Library has grown to include over 350,000 books, with a Photographic Archive containing 350,000 photographs.
The Library and Photographic Archive were the research tool from which Warburg developed his last and unfinished work, the Mnemosyne Atlas. The Atlas constitutes an attempt to represent the theory and history of human expression from Ancient to Modern times, as well as the migration and transformation of images with considerable emphasis on the afterlife of mythology.

The classification of the Library was meant to sustain Warburg’s work. This has given rise to a taxonomy that involves four main categories: Image (art history), Word (language and literature, particularly the survival of classical literature), Orientation (religion, science and philosophy) and Action (social and political history). Within these categories books are arranged chronologically, rather than alphabetically.  This means that a researcher browsing the shelves is able to build up a picture of the evolution of a particular discipline. This might seem a bit confusing, but in practice, the appeal of the collection transcends these issues and the staff are always on hand to help track down a particular book.
Access to the Warburg Institute is restricted to postgraduate students, scholars and researchers by appointment. The institute is in the process of digitising as much of its collection as possible and has already produced 30,000 digital images and 8,000 electronic books, all of which are freely available online. The Institute also runs a busy programme of lectures, colloquia and seminars, which are open to the general public.


This is an extract from our forthcoming edition of Book Lovers’ London. 2015

Bloomsbury Auctions

Bloomsbury House, 24 Maddox Street, W1S 1PP
020 7495 9494
Bond Street & Oxford Circus LU
Bloomsbury Auctions is a specialist book and visual arts auction house which is now the only one of its kind in London.  As such, the sales held at its relatively modest first floor offices near Oxford Circus are a major event in the antiquarian book world attracting prestigious bookshops and many international collectors.  Those attending in person will find themselves bidding against phone bids, those participating online and commission bids which are only declared once the price has reached its limit in the room.

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Bloomsbury sales range from specialist auctions covering a particular theme or period, to the sale of a single collection (where the library of one person is sold).  Bloomsbury still holds the world record price at auction for a first edition of a Harry Potter book (£17,000).  A recent auction had nearly 200 lots covering Continental and English Literature and History, and Middle-Eastern Books and Manuscripts with some of the earliest examples of printed books dating from the late 15th century going under the hammer with an obscure leather bound tombe by the Bishop of Carthage dating from 1417 fetching £10,000 and the Epistles of Pope Pius II in moroccan leather dating from 1473 fetching £3,000.

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Anyone interested in rare books, works of art and collectable letters, diaries and manuscripts should make the effort to attend one of the Bloomsbury auctions. There will not be many lots that are within the reach of ordinary pockets, but the atmosphere is priceless.  If you do visit with the intention of bidding it’s important to remember that the winning bid is subject to VAT and the auction’s commission which adds nearly 29% to the price paid.
As with most auctions, in order to be able to participate, visitors need to register at the desk with proof of residence and then receive a card with a number (known as a paddle) with which they can bid, but the regulars here are always identified by their name. The website is a very useful resource giving information about future auctions and allowing visitors to view the latest catalogues.


This is an extract from our forthcoming edition of Book Lovers’ London. 2015


24-25 Mount Street, W1K 2RR
020 7399 1690
Mon-Sat 11am-7pm, Sun 12noon-6pm

01 Bookmarc_LR
The Mayfair fashion store Marc Jacobs also contains a small outlet dedicated to art and fashion books called BookMarc.  The London store stocks all kinds of interesting books with particular strengths being contemporary photography and fashion but with a more limited offering of fiction and books on modern culture.  If Derrida and Foucault aren’t your bag, there are notebooks and other stationery to peruse and of course the book shelves are surrounded by Marc Jacobs fashion.  Book worms are notoriously unkempt, but smarter literary folk will love this new London store.

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This is an extract from our forthcoming edition of Book Lovers’ London. 2015

Bernard Quaritch

40 South Audley Street, W1K 2PR
020 7297 4888
Bond Street / Marble Arch LU
Mon-Fri 9am-6pm


The grand entrance to Bernard Quaritch with its vast black lacquered door and brass name plate might seem very daunting to the uninitiated but having pressed the bell and gained admittance to the first floor reception you are assured a warm welcome.  The main entrance leads to a high ceilinged room with light wooden shelves displaying some of the books held by this established name in London’s antiquarian book world.  Above the mantlepiece, a portrait of the eponymous Mr Quaritch looks down benevolently, no doubt satisfied that the business he established back in 1847 is still thriving.


Quaritch’s vast stock extends into the staff offices but the first floor reception room is where most business is done.  Staff will cheerfully fetch what visitors require.  The company’s main strengths are medieval manuscripts, English and Continental books, travel, the human sciences and early photographs.

My guide on a recent visit was Alice Ford-Smith, formerly of the Welcome Library and Dr Williams’s Library. She manages the firm’s library and archive, alongside its publications and marketing activities. As she put it:


‘Bookselling at Bernard Quaritch is not just about selling books, manuscripts and photographs.  We give advice to customers and provide valuations.’



The offices might seem quiet by comparison with a typical shop, but Alice is keen to point out that a great deal of the company’s business is with a world-wide network of collectors and libraries.  Most of whom rarely cross the companies threshold but communicate from afar and make their purchases on the strength of catalogues, accurate descriptions and photographs. The firm also attends the major book fairs, both at home and abroad, to meet people face-to-face.


The world of Bernard Quaritch is a fascinating one, but the prices do reflect the quality of their stock and the fact that many of their books are unique.  Alice showed me a vellum bound copy of Hitopadйsa that formerly belonged to William Morris and can be yours for £400.  A recent catalogue included a first edition of Karl Marx’s Das Kapital which could be yours for £80,000.

Bernard Quaritch welcome enquiries. If you can’t make it to their Mayfair offices, do drop them a line and they are always a significant presence at the ABA/PBFA Rare Books London event.


Harrington & Squires Ltd

The Corridor, 136a Fortess Road,
Tufnell Park, NW5 2HP
020 7267 1500
Mon-Fri 10am-6pm

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Harrington & Squires is the brain child of two graphic design graduates, Chrissie Charlton of Hornsey College of Art and Vicky Fullick of St Martin’s  School of Art and later of the London College of Communication. They started their careers during the ‘hands on’ design sensibility of the 70’ and 80’s and during the more sterile world of desk top publishing in the 90’s, wanted to return to the tactile environment of traditional letterpress printing.

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They started the business in the corner of Chrissie’s design practice studio in 2002 and in 2004 stumbled upon a recently closed art gallery which is without doubt one of the narrowest shop fronts in London.  The three galley-like floors are probably too narrow for a conventional shop, but suit their requirements for a workshop and small retail space perfectly.

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Part of Chrissie and Vicky’s time is spent teaching one day letterpress printing workshops for up to two students at a time with lunch thrown in. The classes show how to use the famous Adana letterpress printing machines – designing the text, filling what is called the ‘metal chase area’ with the selected type and blocks and then choosing the inks and setting up the press for the printing of cards, poems and in some cases small pamphlets.  There is something unique about the look and feel of things printed on a letterpress.  As Chrissie explained:

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‘Letterpress produces a unique impression on the paper called a ‘bite’ and people really like that texture to the finished product.’

A good deal of the work of their students is carefully kept to illustrate the possibilities to other students beginning the workshop. They proudly show me a book of poems about wood that has been printed using wooden and metal type and then coptic bound in wooden covers, produced as one of their own personal projects.  Another small book of wood of a different kind, is a commission for a hand bound collection of poems concerning the client’s amorous adventures, thankfully without illustration.

Vicky and Chrissie also dedicate a good deal of time designing and printing all kinds of cards, letterheads, business cards and invitations for clients.  This might sound like the work of a standard printer, but Vicky makes clear:

 ‘We’re not jobbing printers as we usually don’t print other people’s designs and the work is very different from digital or litho printing. Our customers understand they are getting something unique’.

Vicky and Chrissie often do the initial design digitally, bearing in mind that it is then set in metal using the type they have in stock.  Once the digital proofs are approved by the client, the painstaking work of hand setting, locking up in the metal chase and preparing the press is undertaken.  The actual operation of these hand-driven, old machines, can be slow but very satisfying with each piece of paper placed in the press by hand for each impression taken.

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The final part of the Harrington & Squires jigsaw is the production of their own unique cards, fridge magnets and calendars that are sold from their small shop as well as online and through quite a few retail outlets.  This side of the business has really benefited from being on a busy shopping street with a regular contingent of locals popping in to commission cards and other work.

The original Bob Harrington and Horace Squires, who were renowned type compositors and teachers at Hornsey College of Art, would no doubt doff their caps in the direction of Vicky and Chrissie as they keep these valued skills alive.  For those interested in their work or taking a class, their website is an excellent first point of call.

2015 BLL_COVER_2014

This is an extract from our forthcoming edition of Book Lovers’ London.









The Wyvern Bindery

56-58 Clerkenwell Road, EC1M 5PX
020 7490 7899
Open: Mon-Fri 9am-5pm

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The Wyern Bindery is run with ebullient charm by Mark Winstanley, who founded the company with two colleagues (Hannah More and Rosie Gray) in 1990.  They moved from their workshop to this shop on Clerkenwell Road a few years later and have continued to thrive despite lots of changes in the industry and the area, as Mark explained:

“We used to do a lot of magazine and legal document binding for all the big legal practices in the area, but this has dropped off.  Similarly the market for photographers’ portfolios has declined with the internet and digital photography but we still do a few for discerning snappers…”

The business has adapted and now has eight full time binders using their traditional bookbinding skills in all kinds of ways including the making of bespoke boxes, film set props, unique photo albums and a great deal of work for architectural practices – keen to present their cutting edge projects in traditionally bindings.  There is also a fair amount of dissertation binding and as if on cue a young student pops in to collect her cloth bound and gold embossed Phd thesis.

There are always jobs that are particularly memorable and Mark is eager to show the three volumes of the 18th century Vitruvius Britannicus whose tatty leather bands and faded labels Wyvern are replacing with loving care.  Likewise, the vast ledgers of Savile Row’s oldest tailors, Henry Poole & Co., account for the sartorial extravagance of kings and are being rebound in green felt with due reverence by Mark and his team.

In recent years the workshop has shrunk a little, owing to a re-structuring of the building, but there is still considerable space and the change has only added to the shop’s cluttered charm.  There are quite a few antique book presses scattered among the work stations, many of which were made in long closed clerkenwell workshops.  Hopefully this little oasis of skill will remain for many years to come…


Rook’s Books

9 Coopers Yard, Crystal Palace
SE19 1TN
020 8766 6398
Open: By appointment only
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Gavin Rookledge has been creating rare and unusual leather bound books since 1987 and his workshop is now renowned for its skill in binding almost any object in any kind of leather from cow stomachs to chicken feet, although he draws the line at forbidden exotic leathers.  This is not just a nine to five business, in Gavin’s case it has become something of an obsession with every aspect of his life and work carefully documented and enclosed in his own leather bound diaries, most of which are bound in the remnants of a favoured pair of shoes or jacket.  The shelves piled high with such volumes give a detailed account of the progress of Rook’s Books, from a single workshop in this mews off Westow Hill to the company’s current occupation of six workshops and the employment of twelve full-time staff working on anything from the cladding of the interior fixtures of a yacht in vellum, to the binding of 200 books for an architect responsible for a grand interior design.


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Many of Rook’s Books clients are London’s super rich and Gavin is obliged to keep their identity a secret and rarely meets the eventual recipient of his work, largely accepting the commission through an agent.  If you should wish to commission a binding take the opportunity make an appointment to visit Rook’s Books workshops – they are like a small museum devised by Heath Robinson with an early 20th century clocking-in machine, a leather clad car in the driveway complete with vast cow horns and an old railway ticket shelving unit listing destinations long since closed.  Despite the application of ancient skills and the use of vast Victorian book presses and antique embossing tools, this workshop is also very much part of the modern world with Gavin using dictation software in his small office and flat screen televisions distributed throughout the complex of buildings.  Rook’s Books is currently thriving with a large commission having just arrived and plans to takeover yet another unit in the mews, its comforting to know that the future of this special enclave of Crystal Palace is secure.


Bloomsbury Book Fair

Royal National Hotel, Bloomsbury, WC1H 0DG
01707 872 140

Admission Fee: £2 until 12.30pm, free thereafter

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These days The Bloomsbury Book Fair is London’s only monthly book event, attracting over 100 exhibitors from around the country. The atmosphere is hectic at the start of the day with a long queue of eager book lovers gathering before the doors open at 10am – all worried they might miss that much sort after volume. Once the initial morning rush subsides, the fair assumes a more relaxed pace with regulars taking time to chat about their acquisitions, discuss some arcane aspect of book collecting or simply indulge in a bit of gossip. As the afternoon wares on, some of the book dealers that have travelled far and been up since dawn, even catch a quick nap.

There are plenty of rare and exquisite books on display here with a wonderful limited edition of Hansel and Gretel by the Brothers Grimm, illustrated and signed by Kay Nielsen, for £2,500 and a perfect condition, first US edition of Up the Junction by Nell Dunn for just £65. It was also pleasing to see these books could be held and read by careful visitors and not shielded behind glass cabinets.

If you are uninitiated to the world of book collecting and wouldn’t know a ‘conjugated leaf’ from a ‘comb binding’ you need not feel intimidated. There are plenty of books here that are intended for reading rather than collecting and lots of bargains with dealers such as Walden Books offering reasonable condition hardbacks for just £2 each. It’s also a good idea to look around before you buy – I found a lavish English Heritage edition of Disappearing London for £30, but Black Gull Books were selling the same for just £15 in the smaller back room.

As well as books, the fair also has its fair share of map and print dealers and other ephemera, with some displaying their wares with great care, while others take a more haphazard approach, allowing visitors to sift through piles of prints spread across the table and floor. If you have a book that needs restoring to its former glory, Syston Bindery also have a stand here, They will give you a quote and return the book to you at the next fair and are trusted by many of the regular book dealers here.

Bloomsbury Book Fair is a great event for all bibliophiles and one made even more memorable because of its location in the Royal National Hotel which has carpet and fittings similar to those the Outlook Hotel in Kubrick’s ‘The Shining’. Fortunately visitors are a lot closer to civilisation here, with the wonders of Bloomsbury and the attractions of the Brunswick Centre within walking distance – offering a great way to round off a days book browsing.

The London Review Bookshop

14 Bury Place
020 7269 9030
Tottenham Court Road or Holborn LU
Open: Mon-Sat 10am-6.30pm, Sun 12noon-6pm

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In 2003 the team behind the much esteemed literary publication, The London Review of Books, decided to open a bookshop.
They found the perfect location just around the corner from their Bloomsbury offices and a great deal of thought was put into getting the new shop to look and feel just right.  The final, simple, open-plan style of the shop is the work of the late Peter Campbell who designed many of the covers for the London Review over the years, and the high shelves, large hanging ceiling lights and plain wood floors still look good today despite the wear and tear of many years of success.

David Lea has been one of the team of  managers here since it opened and is acutely aware of the importance of atmosphere:

‘The key thing is making the physical shop a nice place to visit,
making it a different experience from shopping on the internet…
Here there are informed people to talk to and good books to look at and handle’


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Manager Natalia De La Ossa and David work with four other full time booksellers to provide an excellent service with plenty of advice when required and a well chosen stock of fiction, history, biography, politics, travel and probably one of the best poetry sections in the country.  The London Review  of Books is one of the world’s leading literary publications, so it is no surprise that this shop is very aware of the latest releases and always has fascinating displays and recommendations.  There is a great deal to keep the visitor entertained on the ground floor of the store, but it is worth remembering that they also have a large and well stocked basement which is sometimes missed by the uninitiated.

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The bookshop hosts about two literary events every week including books signings, poetry readings and frequent book launches. The shop also has a wonderful café which is always busy and serves delicious food and an extensive choice of teas and coffee.  The café is a favourite meeting place for London-based publishers and authors, and many books have been commissioned over lunch in these elegant surroundings.  It’s a welcoming place to relax and peruse your bookshop purchases.


2014 BLL_COVER_2014

This is an extract from our forthcoming edition of Book Lovers’ London.








Word on the Water – The London Book Barge

Paddington Station canal exit
Paddington Basin, W12 1LA
Open: Daily 12noon-7.30pm

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This floating bookshop is the work of three people one of whom is an experienced bookseller and American literature specialist, the second has provided the boat and the third is an Oxford graduate and editor called Paddy who runs the shop on a day to day basis.  The venture has been trading since May 2011 and is now doing well on this mooring in Paddington Basin, as Paddy explained:

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‘We traded for quite a few years in east London, but things never really took off and then we had a really bad year in 2012 when it rained until the summer… We were close to packing the whole thing in until we found this mooring in November 2013.  The location has really made the difference with so many tourists coming from Paddington Station and lots of regulars visiting during their lunch.  We’re not making much money but we’re making enough to survive and we love the job..’

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The boat takes about 20 minutes to set up for trading with shelves put up on the exterior of the boat and signs put out to attract customers.  The stock of second-hand books is very mixed with anything from an old Robert Ludlum novel to the collected works of Freud to be found on the shelves and a far more extensive stock available to browse in the boat’s cosy interior, including a large children’s section.  Paddy is always on hand to give help and advice and can often hunt around before proudly emerging with the title the customer is seeking.  The stock is diverse but the pricing is kept simple with all paperbacks for £3 (two for £5) and hardbacks for just £5.

Another feature of this quirky little bookshop is the music that is constantly playing from two massive speakers placed on deck with a playlist as eclectic as the book stock with anything from Dolly Parton to Gregorian Chant accompanying the book browsing.  Paddy is convinced that the playing of music encourages sales but it’s clear that he enjoys the music and occasionally darts inside to skip a track if he doesn’t like what’s playing.

Amid the new glass towers of Paddington Basin this quirky floating bookshop with its occasional live jazz concerts, poetry slams and book launches brings a welcome dose of humanity into an otherwise rather corporate urban space.  It would be a real loss to the area if the bookshop were to be forced to move and Paddy is hopeful that the Canal and Waterways Trust will grant their application for a permanent mooring.  Word on the Water is very active on social media (Twitter & Facebook) and this is the best way to find out about their progress and future events.


2014 BLL_COVER_2014

This is an extract from our forthcoming edition of Book Lovers’ London.