Sunday, April 4, 2010

Watkins Bookshop Saved from Closure

Watkins Books, the oldest esoteric bookshop in London, has been trading since 1897, but was forced to close on February 23 after being placed in administration. Luckily Etan Ilfeld, who owns two galleries opposite the shop in Cecil Court, off Charing Cross Road, was on hand to buy the business.

The 113 year-old store was started by John Watkins, who knew HPB personally. When he died in 1947, the business was carried on by his son, Geoffrey Watkins. According to the store website, “In 1984, after Geoffrey's death, the bookshop was sold to Donald Weiser, the American publisher of oriental and occult books; Henry Suzuki, the manager of the erstwhile Weiser Bookstore in the New York metropolis; and Robert Chris, whose uncle (of the same name) had been a bookseller of 20th century English literature and poetry in Cecil Court since 1934. In late 1999 Watkins Books Ltd. once again changed ownership.” The London Evening Standard reports that with falling sales caused by the Internet and a loss of trade during the bad weather this winter, the store at 19-21 Cecil Court was further crippled by a £500,000 tax bill inherited from the previous ownership. Watkins republished many of G.R.S. Mead’s works and was famous for its out-of-print section of rare theosophical books. The story of the store’s last minute rescue from closure can be read here.

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