History often has a way of staying in just the books we read. Many of the historic things that used to exist back in the day are no longer physically around.
Whether it be non-management of them, loss in business or various other reasons, they often only become a part of our history subject that we read about.
But the Higginbotham’s bookstore in Chennai kind of proves that wrong, still existing as the oldest bookstore of the country.
Built all the way back in 1844, the bookstore has stood the test of time, staying around for almost 176 years.
However, what do we know about this bookstore that has managed to stick around even with the major advancements in technology and paper books as an industry not as profitable as decades ago.
The Oldest Indian Bookstore
The first bookstore of this company is located at Mount Road, Chennai and is still around.
The Mount Road bookstore was set up in 1844 by an English librarian called Abel Joshua Higginbotham.
He was actually ejected from a British ship by its captain at the Madras port when he was found on the ship without proper papers for his trip.
Later on, he became an employee at the Weslyan Book Shop, but the store eventually ran into massive losses. Higginbotham seeing an opportunity decided to buy the store from the Protestant missions who were running it.
And thus Higginbotham’s was established in 1844 and soon gained somewhat of a reputation for selling good quality books.
His bookstore was even mentioned in a letter written by the Governor of Madras to Lord Macaulay, Lord Trevelyan, in 1859.
He stated that,
“Among the many elusive and indescribable charms of life in Madras City, is the existence of my favourite book shop ‘Higginbotham’s’ on Mount Road. In this bookshop I can see beautiful editions of the works of Socrates, Plato, Euripides, Aristophanes, Pindar, Horace, Petrarch, Tasso, Camoyens, Calderon and Racine. I can get the latest editions of Victor Hugo, the great French novelist. Amongst the German writers, I can have Schiller and Goethe. Altogether a delightful place for the casual browser and a serious book lover.”
Around the 1860s, Higginbotham’s also started to publish his own books and stationery.
When Higginbotham passed away in 1891, his son C. H. Higginbotham was charged with the ownership of the brand and he eventually expanded it out across various regions in South India.
The bookstore was also established at several Indian railway stations on the South Indian Railway and the Southern Mahratta Railway.
It is said that till the 1990s, Higginbotham’s was one of the biggest Indian bookstore, with not much competition.
Image Credits: Google Images
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