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

History

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 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 off their shop for a cheap 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". In March 1859, in a letter to Lord Macaulay, Lord Trevelyan, the Governor of Madras wrote:

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 Librarymarker. 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 he 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. Recently, a business firm had offered to buy the store and construct a multi-storeyed building in its place. However, these offers have been rejected.. In 1989, renovations helped restore the original look upon the building..

Today

The Higginbothams has a chain of 22 outlets spread across the South Indian states of Tamil Nadumarker, Andhra Pradeshmarker, Karnatakamarker and Keralamarker.

Notes

  1. Madras Rediscovered, Pg 81
  2. Madras Rediscovered, Pg 52


References




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