Discover Blackwell's

The History and Heritage of an Oxford Family Bookshop

The first bookshop opened by a member of the Blackwell family was in Oxford but was actually in 1846.

We take the year of 1879 as our founding since it was on January 1st of that year that our bookshop on Broad Street, Oxford first opened its doors and we have been trading continuously from there ever since.

1879 was the year that Thomas Edison created the first lightbulb, Broad Street was cobbled and, no doubt, filled with the sound of hooves clipping along it.

Since then we have grown to become more than just one bookshop, with a chain of 30 bookshops serving not only individual customers but also a host of libraries, universities, businesses and government departments. We employ over 500 staff across the country.

The Oxford bookshop itself has grown; sideways, upwards and, most notably, underground.

The Norrington Room was opened over fifty years ago and for many years was proudly listed in the Guinness Book of Records as the single largest room in the world selling books.

The shop has garnered mentions in numerous books, employed booksellers who have gone on to be award-winning authors, featured in a variety of films, and been a haven for the bookish from all parts of the globe.

As part of the celebrations this year our booksellers (and a few authors) have selected an eclectic mix of 140 books to represent each year of Blackwell's existence.

Our blog expands upon the (sometimes unusual) reasons for our book choices.

The following timeline picks out just a few of the highlights of our storied history, we hope that you enjoy it.