company_name = Blackwell UK
company_type = Private
company_slogan =
location_city = Oxford
location_country = England, UK
foundation = 1879 (Broad Street, Oxford)
founder = Benjamin Henry Blackwell
industry = Retail (Specialty)
num_employees = 1,000
products = Books, Maps
homepage = []

Blackwell UK is a national chain of bookshops, online retail, mail order and library services which has an annual turnover of £74 million. The business is distinct from Blackwell Publishing, a leading academic and journal publisher, which was also owned by the Blackwell family, under the leadership of Nigel Blackwell, until its sale to John Wiley & Sons in 2007. Blackwell UK Ltd is a retail and library supply business.

The company started out as a bookshop selling academic books in Oxford, England, growing to include a chain of bookshops and a (now separate) publishing firm. [ [,49,50,51.htm History of 48-51 Broad Street, Oxford (Blackwell's)] ] The original shop, much expanded behind an unassuming front, still stands on Broad Street, Oxford; the company owns two bookstores on the same street covering different specialities (art and music), and several others in the city. Other Blackwell's bookshops also tend to have an academic emphasis and they are often located close to universities.


The company was founded in 1879 by Benjamin Henry Blackwell, son of the first city librarian, who having finished his education at 13, was apprenticed to a local bookseller for a shilling a week. His father, Benjamin Harris Blackwell, had been heavily involved in the Temperance Society. The society promoted, as well as religion, self-education and also encouraged reading. The society provided separate rooms for non-alcoholic refreshment and silent reading. A religious family, the Blackwells had also become involved with the Temperance Society due to Benjamin's father being teetotal, and as a protest against the government making money from the excise duty on alcohol. [ History of Blackwell's] ]

The flagship Broad Street shop in Oxford, at number 50 was originally only twelve feet square but quickly grew to incorporate the upstairs, cellar and neighbouring shops. Benjamin Henry Blackwell was well-respected in Oxford and was elected the first-ever Liberal councillor for Oxford North.

Basil Blackwell, Benjamin Henry's son, became the first Blackwell to go to university; he was awarded a scholarship at Oxford University's Merton College. However he was expected to join the family firm, which he did in 1913, after a spell as an apprentice publisher in London. He was tasked with expanding his father's publishing business.

The first Blackwell publication, "Mensæ Secundæ: verses written in Balliol College" by H.C. Beeching, was printed in 1879. Blackwell’s began the careers of many writers: in 1915 J. R. R. Tolkien's first poem, "Goblin's Feet", was published. To ensure everyone had access to literature, Blackwell's pioneered a series of cheaper books, from a one-volume Shakespeare to "3/6 novels". The publishing company was merged into the main company in 1921, and a scientific section was added in 1939.

Basil Blackwell also wanted to preserve fine printing. After rescuing the Shakespeare Head Press, he commissioned belles-lettres, including well-known classics such as the Pilgrim's Progress, the works of the Brontës and a complete version of Chaucer's Canterbury Tales.

When Benjamin Henry died in 1924, Basil Blackwell took over from his father, running the firm, with the nickname "gaffer" for over sixty years.

In 1966 the Norrington Room was opened, named after Sir Arthur Norrington, the President of Trinity College and extending under part of Trinity College. It boasts three miles (5 km) of shelving and at 10,000 square feet merited an entry in the "Guinness Book of Records" as the largest single room selling books.

Recent history

The company has made a determined policy since the 1990s to spread out from its traditional Oxford base and take on a much broader UK-wide presence.

This has included in 1995 becoming the first online bookstore in the UK that allowed its customers to purchase online, with access to over 150,000 titles; and the opening in 1998 of a flagship store in London, at 100 Charing Cross Road, which is now one of the company's six flagship stores. The company took over the Heffers string of bookshops in Cambridge in 1999, and in 2002 acquired the academic bookshops of James Thin in Scotland.

Blackwell's now has over 60 retail outlets across the UK, including a number of specialist stores, with several medical outlets, and even a shop in Aberdeen specialising in the oil industry.

The company is still in the hands of the Blackwell family. Support for its activities, including Blackwell's Online, is based at Beaver House in Oxford.

Both the Oxford and London flagship stores have won Bookseller of the Year at the British Book Awards.


External links

* [ Blackwell Online]
* [ History of Blackwell's]
* [ Blackwell Publishing]
* [ Photo and other information on]
* [ Blackwell's Broad Street, Oxford]
* [ Blackwell Synergy]
* [,49,50,51.htm History of 48-51 Broad Street, Oxford (Blackwell's)]

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