Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Higginbotham's - the place for book worms...

The Third important landmark in Anna Salai of Chennai is Higginbotham's Book Shop in front of the LIC Buildings.

The Higginbotham's is an Indian company of book sellers and publishers based in the city of Chennai. The main bookstore at Mount Road, Chennai has the reputation of being India's oldest bookshop in existence.

The Higginbotham's was established by an English librarian named Abel Joshua Higginbotham.It is alleged that he arrived in India as a British stowaway. In fact he was born 1 February 1819 and baptised 7 March at cannonore, Madras.

In the 1840s, he was employed as a librarian with a bookstore named Weslyan Book Shop run by Protestant missionaries. However, the store suffered heavy losses and the missionaries who ran the business decided to sell their shop for a low price. Higginbotham purchased the business and set up his own store and called it "Higginbotham's" in the year 1844. The Higginbotham's is, therefore, India's oldest bookstore in existence. Soon, it gained a reputation for quality. John Murray, in his Guidebook to the Presidencies of Madras and Bombay in 1859, describes Higginbotham's as the "premier bookshop of Madras".

The Higginbotham's started selling stationery and also publishing and printing their own books from the 1860s onwards. When the British Crown took over the governance of India from the British East India Company by the Queen's Proclamation of 1858, copies of the Proclamation were printed in English and Tamil and distributed all over the Presidency by Higginbotham's. he Higginbotham's were appointed as the "official booksellers to His Royal Highness, the Prince of Wales" during the latter's visit to India in 1875. Abel Joshua Higginbotham served as the Sheriff of Madras in 1888 and 1889. From 1890 to 1920, the Higginbotham's were the sole suppliers to the Connemara Public Library. James Higgs, who was the Managing Director from 1890 onwards, was a prominent Freemason who had previously served as the Grand Deacon of England and the Deputy District Grand Master of Master.

Abel also involved his son C. H. Higginbotham in his business. On Abel's death in 1891, the firm passed on to the hands of his son C. H. Higginbotham. C. H. expanded the business beyond Madras. Higginbotham bookstalls were established in Southern Railway stations. In 1904, the Higginbotham's moved to a new building that has been specifically built for the firm. In 1929, the Higginbotham's had as many as 400 employees.

In 1921, Higginbotham's was purchased by John Oakshott Robinson who added the store to his group the Associated Publishers. Associated Publishers was bought by S. Anantharamakrishnan of Amalgamations Group in 1945 and has since remained a part of the conglomerate. Some of Higginbotham's famous customers were Clement Attlee, Chakravarti Rajagopalachari and S. Radhakrishnan. Rev. Miller, who established the Madras Christian College, was another regular at Higginbotham's.

The Higginbotham's was the largest bookstore in India till the 1990s. In 1989, renovations helped restore the original look upon the building.

The Higginbothams has a chain of 22 outlets spread across the South Indian states of Tamil Nadu, Andhra Pradesh, Karnataka and Kerala.

You will wonder, Higginbotham's working hours are very narrow. 10.00AM to 8.00 PM Never opens on sundays. You will always find a security at the entrance round the clock(In 2005, ofcourse, Higginbotham's was stealed by its own security personnel).