In the run-up to our Mayfair & St James’s Literary Festival, we step inside our local bookshops. Words by Charlotte Pasha.
This part of London has historic literary connections and has long been home to writers and bookshops. Join us as we investigate this area’s reading dens old and new.
Heywood Hill, 10 Curzon Street
Staying authentic is part of the charm here.
“A few years ago, we turned an illustration of the main room into a postcard. I sent a copy to a venerable and distinguished lady in Manhattan.
“She rang me back and said: ‘It looks exactly how I remember it when I first knew it during the war when Nancy [Mitford] worked there’,” says Heywood Hill’s chairman Nicky Dunne.
“Our interiors are timeless and bookish, cosy and welcoming. And peaceful – at least according to our neighbour Daphne Guinness,” he adds.
Hatchards, 187 Piccadilly
Hatchards started as a bookseller’s street trolley run by John Hatchard in 1796, moved indoors in 1797 and has remained on the same site ever since.
Here Jane Austen bought a copy of the novel that went on to inspire Northanger Abbey. It was also the only bookshop originally to sell Beatrix Potter’s Peter Rabbit.
It was also Hatchards which set up the library at Sandringham and now bears three Royal Warrants, from the Queen, the Duke of Edinburgh and the Prince of Wales.
Peter Harrington, 43 Dover Street
Peter Harrington has an almost gallery-like feel, thanks to a mix of open shelves and display cabinets.
“The more minimal, contemporary feel of the shop was designed to fit in with the Mayfair location, situated as we are in an area known for its art galleries and high-end retailers,” says Pom Harrington.
“We also wanted to include display space for the limited-edition prints we sell through the Peter Harrington gallery arm,” he adds.
Not all bookshops can say they’re located in Claridge’s, but books still take centre stage at Taschen.
Nods to the glamour of its setting include red velvet curtains hiding away shelves, a Gio Ponti chandelier from Benedikt Taschen’s collection, and a dark wood herringbone floor.
The London Library, 14 St James’s Square
While not quite a bookshop, it would be remiss to discuss interiors and books in the same breath without mentioning The London Library.
Originally opened in 1841 and located in St James’s, seven buildings have been knocked together over time to hold more than one million books, some dating from 1700, arranged across 17 miles of shelves.
Charles Dickens, George Eliot, Bram Stoker and more have all spent time here.
Maison Assouline, 196A Piccadilly
It’s worth popping in to Maison Assouline just for the beautiful curation of the store.
The charming objects make it look like a fine home or club.
The bar in here is a destination unto itself and the coffee table books for sale are truly stunning.