Bowes & Bowes Archive

Reference: BABDate: 1688-1972Extent: 235 volumes

Bowes & Bowes was a publisher and bookseller that operated at 1 Trinity Street, Cambridge. The location is one of the oldest continually inhabited bookshops in Britain, and the tradition of bookselling at this address dates back to at least 1581, if not earlier.

The history of Bowes & Bowes is intertwined with that of Macmillan & Co. In 1846, Robert Bowes was sent from Scotland to apprentice under his uncles, Daniel and Alexander Macmillan, at their business in Cambridge. Their company, Macmillan & Co, a publishing and bookselling firm, outgrew its Cambridge location, and Alexander Macmillan opened up a branch in London in 1858. The Cambridge shop remained the firm’s headquarters until 1863, when Alexander officially moved the publishing business to London. Robert was left to manage the bookshop in Cambridge, which became known as Macmillan & Bowes in 1882.

Though the main business at the Cambridge shop was selling books and stationary, Robert continued to publish and print books after Macmillan & Co moved to London, though not many. In 1899, Robert made his son, George Brimley Bowes, a partner at the shop, and the business officially became known as Bowes & Bowes in 1907. The firm remained a family business until 1953, when W.H. Smith bought it. W.H. Smith continued to operate the shop under the name Bowes & Bowes until 1986 when it changed to Sherratt & Hughes, another subsidiary of W.H. Smith. In 1992, Cambridge University Press bought the premise and turned it into their primary bookstore, continuing the tradition of selling books at 1 Trinity Street.

The Bowes & Bowes Archive consists of 235 volumes, including cashbooks, journals and magazines. There is a run of printed subject catalogues, which give a fairly good picture of the business, its diversity and growth. A significant portion of the collection contains letter books, account ledgers and catalogues from the Macmillan firm, dating from 1844 to 1911. There are several catalogues from Thomas Stevenson, the bookseller who occupied 1 Trinity Street prior to the Macmillan brothers. There are also a number of books dating from 1688 to 1953 that may have belonged to the private library of Robert or George Bowes.

The records of Bowes & Bowes after the takeover by W.H. Smith in 1953 can be found in the W.H. Smith Business Archive.

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