New Digs for One of London’s Oldest Antiquarian Bookshops

On May 24, Maggs Bros. Ltd.--“antiquarian booksellers by appointment to the Queen”--will re-open at its new headquarters, 48 Bedford Square. The long-lived bookshop had been based at 50 Berkeley Square for nearly eighty years before the decision was made, in late 2015, to cut short its 99-year lease and relocate.

The firm founded in 1853 by Uriah Maggs is still run by the same family. Ed Maggs is managing director, and his son, Benjamin, is a sixth-generation bookseller. Maggs and his staff of twenty work closely with book collectors and institutional libraries, offering superior rare books, maps, and manuscripts.   

image001.jpg“We’re tremendously excited about this move. It has been a great challenge, first to excavate and sort out the extraordinary layers of material buried in the catacombs of 50 Berkeley Square, to restore this wonderful new building, and to occupy it. I hope it will look as if it’s been effortless, but there’s been a lot of very hard work and very good faith gone into this project,” Ed Maggs commented in a press statement.

The new Bedford Square location comes with its own special provenance--it was formerly the home of Bedford College, the first higher education institution for women in Britain, attended by author George Eliot, Kate Dickens (daughter of Charles), and Lady Byron (wife of the notorious poet).  

In the spirit of innovation, Maggs seeks to broaden the collector community with events and exhibitions. On May 25, in conjunction with Rare Books London, Maggs will be hosting a colloquium titled Tattered remnants of lost civilizations, or fixed points in a shifting world? where writers, collectors, and librarians will discuss the current state of the various book trades. Two exhibitions are also in the works for summer: one focused on T.E. Lawrence and one on Evelyn Waugh’s artwork.  

Said Maggs, “The last 20 years have seen unprecedented change in our world. Both the purpose and perception of books and manuscripts have changed profoundly, as have their marketplaces. The tectonic shift that has challenged our trade is entering a mature stage: the drift of the two continents of text and object, sometimes colliding, sometimes moving apart, is beginning to settle down. The coming years are going to be tremendously interesting. There’s a burgeoning culture of collecting and interpreting material among youngsters these days, which is based on a need to find new ways of looking at the world, of finding new ways to interpret both the past and the present. The firm has a really strong cadre of young booksellers working here now, and the combination of their enthusiasm with the experience of us oldsters bodes extremely well.”

                                                                                                                                        Image courtesy of Maggs Bros. Ltd.

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