Book Shops


Black and white view of 19th Century Picadilly St.

In 1797 John Hatchard (1769-1849) opened a bookshop at No. 173 Piccadilly. In 1801 he moved premises to No. 190. Later the store was moved to No. 187 where it has remained. In Hatchard's time the shop was as much a social meeting place for the literary-minded as it was a bookshop. Residents of Albany, just across Piccadilly, including Byron frequented the shop. The daily newspapers were always laid out on the table by the fireplace and there were benches outside for the customers servants. He was bookseller to Queen Charlotte. The firm has always held a royal warrant since that time. His son Thomas took over the store after his father's death in 1849.

Looking up Air Street from Piccadilly

The Temple of the Muses

Shepherd TH. Temple of the Muses, Finsbury Square, 1828 in Elmes J. Metropolitan Improvements or London in the Nineteenth Century, 1829.
Temple of the Muses, Finsbury Square, 1828

From 1778 to 1798 James Lackington, the bookseller, had a shop at No. 32, Finsbury Place South in the southeast corner of Finsbury Square called "The Temple of the Muses". The shop had a frontage of 140 feet and was one of the sights of London. On top of the building was a dome with a flagpole, which flew a flag when Mr. Lackington was in residence. In the middle of the shop was a huge circular counter around which, it was said, a coach and six could have been driven, so large were the premises. A wide staircase led to the "lounging rooms" and the first of a series of galleries with bookshelves. The books became shabbier and cheaper as one ascended. This, the first large book emporium was the pioneer of Remaindering, buying up bulk stock from elsewhere at a bargain price and selling cheap. Every one of the thousands of books in the shop was marked with its lowest price and numbered according to a printed catalogue. In 1792, Lackington estimated his profits for the year to be about £5000. At this period, he issued more than three thousand catalogues ("A Catalogue of Books, in All Languages, and Classes of Learning, for the Years 1806-7, Now Selling for Ready Money, at the Low Prices Affixed, Warranted Complete, by Lackington, Allen, & Co. Temple of the Muses, Finsbury Square, London.") every year. In 1793 Lackington sold a fourth part of his business to Robert Allen who had been brought up in the shop. The firm of Lackington, Allen and Co. became one of the largest in the book trade, selling upwards of 100,000 volumes yearly at their very extensive premises.

TokenToken Token

Lackington issued promotional tokens with a facing bust of the proprietor (this design, which was not particularly successful, yielded place to a more orthodox profile portrait in 1795). The reverse design, used with minor modifications in both years was a figure of Fame blowing a trumpet, proclaiming Lackington's firm the cheapest booksellers in the world. The edges of these tokens usually bore advice as to redemption, on several varieties, payment was guaranteed at the " Temple of the Muses". After Lackington's retirement, his nephew continued the store. Later in the early 1800s the bookstore was sold to Jones and Company for distribution of their books and other works. The shop burned down in 1841.

interior of Temple of the Muses
interior of Temple of the Muses

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