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.
Constructed under the supervision of Julian Blackwell in 1966, our vast basement is the academic heart of Blackwell’s Bookshop. Named after Sir Arthur Norrington, then President of Trinity College, it is quite simply one of the world’s greatest rooms of books and is an essential place to see if you are visiting Oxford. It was then the world’s largest single display of books in one room, with 160,000 volumes on two-and-a-half miles of shelving.
In 1995, Blackwell’s became one of the first retailers to go online. We launched our website, as part of ‘Barclay Square’ – an online shopping mall – where you could virtually visit Blackwell’s and other large retailers. This article stated that ‘Credit card details can be used in these systems and shielded from cyber-space highwaymen.’
In 1995, blackwell.co.uk became the first transactional online bookstore in the UK, giving people across the world access to over 150,000 titles.
Our mission is to become the world’s most trusted bookseller and to change lives through reading and books.