Bowes and Bowes

The firm of Bowes and Bowes (Cambridge) Ltd, booksellers, was subsumed by WH Smith in 1953, but this archive predates that acquisition.

The firm may have been established as early as 1505, when Spierinck, a binder, first settled in Cambridge - by 1537 he was established at 1 Trinity Street. From 1581 the names of successive occupiers of 1 Trinity Street are all known and all were concerned with bookselling.

In 1843 or 1844 Daniel and Alexander Macmillan, with financial help from Archdeacon Hare, bought Richrad Newby's book shop at 17 Trinity Street. They subsequently acquired Thomas Stevenson's business and amalgamated the two at 1 Trinity Street in 1846. In 1846 too Robert Bowes, their nephew, came from Scotland to learn the business. The early business was a mixture of bookselling, publishing and the printing and supply of stationery, as becomes quite clear from the few early records that have survived. By 1858 it was necessary to open a London branch and in 1863 the London publishing business was detached from the Cambridge business. Alexander Macmillan moved to London and managed the publishing firm, leaving Robert Bowes to manage the Cambridge business with partners. In 1899 Robert Bowes took his son, George Brimley Bowes, into partnership, and from 1907 the firm was called Bowes and Bowes.

Comparatively few records have survived, but the early cash books, journals and letter books, and the run of printed catalogues give a fairly good picture of the business, its diversity and growth.

More information

  • A handlist is available at the Speical Collections Service or download a pdf here (336 KB)
  • Archive reference: BAB
  • A full description is available from our online database
publishing history correspondence, business records Y Bowes and Bowes

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