Visit Bath and Visit An Exclusive Bookshop
19 February 2018
In this week’s visiting-Bath-blog, we take a closer look at the artisan bookbinder, George Bayntun, and it’s beautiful bookshop.
One of the really lovely things about Bath is that it has all of the mainstream shops you’d hope to find in a big city (you never know when you might need a branch of Boots), but it also has wonderful boutiques too. There’s a whole community of independent shops here, and a thriving artisan sector too. One of the oldest artisan companies in Bath has to be the world-renowned George Bayntun.
Now known as simply George Bayntun, the company started life as the Riviere bookbindery, which first began trading in Bath in 1829 under Robert Riviere. It became the Bayntun-Riviere bindery when it was joined by George Bayntun in 1894.
A company which believes strongly in tradition, Bayntun’s still binds all of its books entirely by hand, and has the largest collection of hand tools and blocks in the world - over 15,000. It’s eleven binders have been working at the bindery for a collective 337 years.
Entering Bayntun’s bookshop is a little like entering a forgotten world. The journey begins once you press the bell - you can’t just walk in like with a regular bookshop, you have to ring the bell and wait to be given entry (which makes it feel as if you’re entering an exclusive literary clubhouse).
Inside not much has changed since 1938 when it was converted from its former life as the old Post Office sorting office. At that time most of the furniture was already antique so today it’s even more the case. In fact, the book binders still work at the benches which were originally used to sort the mail.
Visitors are free to browse at their leisure, completely uninterrupted once they’ve been let in, and there’s a whole treasure-trove to explore. The books are spread over three floors, with children’s books filling the basement (because really, who doesn’t love rediscovering an old favourite from their childhood? Re-reading the likes of Swallows and Amazons is escapism at its finest). The shelves are filled with leather and gilt covers, and the bookcases are easy to get lost behind. They even have bookshelves under the stairs.
The bookshop is one with a truly impressive history, as well as an impressive home – the façade is a bold statement of arched, ground-floor windows, wrought iron railings and four-gabled roof, (all in Bath stone of course). Quite aside from the building itself though, the firm was granted Royal patronage by Queen Mary in 1950 with the title of “Bookseller to Her Majesty”. Their books have been gifted to heads of state as well. A copy of “A Tale of Two Cities” in red morocco bindings was given by Margaret Thatcher as a farewell gift to President Mitterand.
If you love literature, and you enjoy getting lost in among shelves of beautiful books, we can highly recommend a visit to George Bayntun.