Sunday, September 4, 2011

Henry Sotheran & Co.

Henry Sotheran & Co. is an antiquarian bookseller founded in York in 1761, making it the longest established antiquarian bookseller in the world. In 1815, the business was moved to London. In 1936 the bookshop moved to its current address, 2-5 Sackville Street in the West End.

A few highlights in the early history of Henry Sotheran & Co.:
  • In 1878 the company purchased the library of Charles Dickens.
  • In 1882 Sotherans purchased the entire stock and copyright of John Gould's great ornithological works.
  • In 1896 Sotherans sold a Guttenberg Bible on vellum for £2,750, four folios of Shakespeare for £800, and a collection of Byron manuscripts for £3000.
During the Second World War, Sotheran's bookshop sustained some damage in the London Blitz. However, the business prospered quite well during the war years by selling new books to the troops. Sotherans also had a very active export department at this time. A steady income was provided by exporting learned periodicals, mostly to American universities.

In 1959, Sotherans bought an Audubon's Birds of America for a record price of £13,000, and it is still the most expensive printed book ever sold at auction. The book remained in the shop for so long in its packed condition that staff used it as a tea and card table.

Today, apart from books, Henry Sotheran & Co. has a general antiquarian department tjat sells such items as autographed letters, original cartoons, maps, and signed cricket bats.

By Mark Matlach

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