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.

01 bloomsbury book auction

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.

06 bloomsbury book auction
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

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.


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

 01_London review bookshop

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’


06London Review Bookshop

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.

04 London review Bookshop

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.








Hurlingham Books

91 Fulham High Street, SW6 3JS
020 7736 4363
Putney Bridge LU
ring for details of opening hours

Hurlingham Bookshop 5
Rather hidden away on the north side of Putney Bridge, you will need to take steep steps leading down to Willow Bank and walk around the corner to the junction with Ranelagh Gardens to find this amazing bookshop.  This small second-hand literary institution is well worth the effort as it is incredibly well stocked and run with eccentric charm by the ever enthusiastic Ray Cole, who has been in the book trade for over forty years. There are so many books that they are piled high in the windows and inside, the store is a maze of high bookshelves with ladders enabling visitors to search out the next addition to their library. Most general subjects are covered and there are some rare and antiquarian titles to view on request. The selection of modern fiction is especially broad with many in the £3-£5 range.

Ray still loves his work, although by his own admission it is more a quixotic adventure than a sound financial enterprise:

‘I’m really not in the book trade for the money… I just love books and even prefer buying them to selling them.  I also like the people you meet in this trade and the visitors to the shop’.

Hurlingham Bookshop 28

A testament to Ray’s enthusiasm for books is the warehouse which is just around the corner from the shop and is said to contain over one million books, all catalogued and kept in order by a small team.  If time and staff are available book lovers’ can visit the warehouse for a more extensive browse or particular books can be brought to the shop in advance of a visit.

Hurlingham Bookshop 21

The shop keeps wonderfully erratic opening hours so telephone before making a journey. If the store is closed when you arrive there’s usually a bookshelf or two of books outside operating an honesty box system. Despite the delightful chaos, there is a printed catalogue in the shop to help customers find particular titles. Next door to the shop is The Eight Bells pub – good for a reviving drink and a pub lunch.


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

Word on the Water 59_edit

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:

Word on the Water 5

‘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..’

Word on the Water 40

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.









Lutyens & Rubinstein Bookshop

21 Kensington Park Road
W11 2EU
020 7229 1010
Open: Mon & Sat 10am-6pm, Tues-Fri 10am-6.30pm, Sun 11am-5pm 

For many years the established literary agents Sarah Lutyens and Felicity Rubinstein harboured dreams of owning their own bookshop. In 2009 they bought a former lingerie store and employed architects de Rosee & Sa to create a space that could double as offices and a modern bookshop.



The result is a stylish mix of high, dark wood shelves with lower display units, clever lighting, a raised level for children’s books and a spiral staircase that leads to a subterranean space dedicated to adult fiction. The really clever feature is the sliding bookshelves that conceal the offices of the agency and can be moved like in a Bond movie to create a larger space for literary events and readings.

The shop’s lighting and use of space are really effective and they also have beautiful book sculptures which hang from the high ceiling and are a regular feature of the changing window display. Above all, Lutyens & Rubinstein offer a well chosen stock of fiction, biography and popular reference titles, a good children’s section as well as poetry and art books. The staff are also an important part of the shop’s appeal and they go out of their way to offer recommendations and order books quickly when not in stock.

Claire Harris is the manager here and her phenomenal appetite for reading has been put to good use for the ‘Year in Books’ gift scheme. Customers give Claire some idea of the favoured reading of their chosen recipient and she uses her knowledge to send out an appropriate book every month for a year. Her intuition is uncanny and the scheme has developed and acquired a loyal group of regular subscribers sending books across the world.


Notting Hill is popular with tourists, particularly on market days, but the majority of Lutyens & Rubinstein’s customers are locals and really make an effort to support the shop. Tara, who takes responsibility for the kid’s section, explains:

“Our local customers are very supportive. I think it’s because Elgin Books – which closed about ten years ago – was just around the corner, and people really remember how awful it was to lose a bookshop…”


The fact that this is a new venture and has a successful company behind the bookshop gives the place an incredible sense of optimism. Felicity Rubenstein comes up from her office and gives a very positive view of the future of books in the world Amazon and the Kindle :

‘In the history of publishing every time a new format has come out everybody has wrung their hands

and said ‘oh the paperback will kill the industry, ahh book clubs, that’s the death of the bookshop!’ but that isn’t the case, it just expands the ways in which people can read…’

This optimism and fresh approach to book selling is really welcome and makes this a shop well worth going out of your way to visit. Their website is also a useful resource and gives information about the shop’s busy itinerary of events and readings.




2014 BLL_COVER_2014

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

Book & Kitchen

DSC_291431 All Saints Road, W11 1HE
020 3417 8266
Tues-Sat 10am-6pm, Sun 12noon-4pm


Opened in March 2013, Book & Kitchen is an unusual mix of a bookshop and café as well as a live music and supper club venue.  Muna Khogali worked in publishing for many years before getting the idea for this fabulous venture.

‘I found many bookshops dark, rather dull places and wanted to do something new and make a place that is light and airy with staff that are helpful and knowledgeable’


The result is a shop that is both comfortable and stylish with scaffolding used to create chunky but attractive shelves and an eclectic mix of  second-hand furniture.  On the ground floor there is space for a well chosen selection of new books with a large table for visitors to use the wi-fi facility while enjoying a drink or just browsing the stock.  Downstairs is more cosy with a small café, shelves of second-hand books and a snug kid’s area with lots of children’s fiction and space for them to play while the adults enjoy a browse and a coffee.


The cafe is as generous and thoughtful as the rest of the shop with a long list of different blends of tea and coffee and a wonderful selection of cakes and more substantial dishes which are made daily in the small kitchen at the back.  The regular supper clubs hosted here are an important part of the business and Muna is proud that she has managed to cook for one hundred people from the small kitchen.  The shop hosts regular Supper Clubs for Peirene Press, during which an author and editor get a chance to meet dinners while eating food inspired by the book in question.


The venture is still new and the energy levels and enthusiasm high, but Muna does realise the difficulty of keeping an independent bookshop as part of a local community:

‘I’ve got nothing against competition, but many internet companies don’t pay their taxes and treat their staff badly, so this is unfair, protected competition… We need to think about the netbook agreement again… because price cutting is destroying the book trade…”

Despite the justified anger at the state of the book trade, Muna is very positive in her approach with lots of plans for the shop which include more live music,  ambitious dinning experiences and some events hosted by the philosopher Nigel Warburton.  For all the latest events check their website.


Book & Kitchen is a wonderful shop, but All Saints Road is a few minutes walk from the crowds of Portobello Road and people really need to know about the place and make the effort to visit.  We left with a bag full of books, a poster from their small selection and a determination to visit again, if only to try another of Muna’s delicious cakes.




2014 BLL_COVER_2014

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








Turn the Page Bookshop

Turn the Page Store

575 Garratt Lane, SW18 4ST

020 8605 2290

Earlsfield Rail

Open Mon-Fri 11.30am-6pm, Sat 10am-7pm, Sun 11am-6pm

My Back Pages was a second-hand and antiquarian bookshop in Balham famous for its piles of books on every conceivable subject and the eccentric wit of its owner Doug Jeffers.  The shop shut its doors for the last time in 2013 much to the consternation of south London’s bookworms who had grown to rely on the place for their literary fix.  Mr Jeffers was equally upset, having been in the book trade for over 30 years and worked his way up from a stall in Camden Market to at one stage owning five second-hand bookshops.  He now found himself without a shop and with a warehouse full of second-hand books.  As Doug puts it:

‘I couldn’t bring myself to get rid of the stock wholesale and I missed the business and the customers.  I’m getting near retirement age, but I still love books and bookselling… So with the help of my son (Jake) I’ve started again -‘

“like a phoenix from the ashes…”’

The shambling charm of My Back Pages has been preserved in this new bookshop with tens of thousands of books filling shelves and in piles spread through a labyrinthine net work of rooms leading from a main shop space where Mr Jeffers has his desk amid further stacks of books waiting to be catalogued. The ground floor would be enough to detain any book lover for some time, but there are further surprises lurking below with stairs marked by a printed sign with a quote from the author Carlos Ruiz Zafón:

‘El Cementerio do los libros ovidados’

(The Cemetery of Forgotten Books)

The words are apt for below is a cavernous basement where many of the more academic titles are kept, covering subjects including medicine, languages, philosophy, politics, early English literature, music, poetry and a great deal more. The basement is the kind of literary dungeon where you could while away an afternoon and emerge into to the light with an arm full of books to add to your own library.

Turn the Page has something for everyone with a fair few new books scattered among the second-hand and antiquarian tombs, some reasonably priced first editions at the back of the store and bargain boxes outside with book for as little as 50p.  Mr Jeffers is still a little crest fallen about the loss of his old shop and a modern world where books are not treasured as in the past, but his face lights up when I express admiration for the shop.  With his son involved in the business and a growing band of locals making regular visits to the shop, lets hope his vast library is not forgotten.

Garratt Lane is not short of cafés with Ben’s Canteen, Mel’s and the Earlsfield Deli surrounding the lone bookshop – offering a chance for book lovers to get refreshment while browsing the new additions to their collection.

Turn the Page 12(blog) Turn the Page 21(blog) Turn the Page 27(blog) Turn the Page 37(blog)

2014 BLL_COVER_2014

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