Higginbotham's is an Indian company of book
sellers and publishers based in the city of Chennai.
bookstore at Mount Road, Chennai has the
reputation of being India's oldest bookshop in
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
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
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
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.
Amalgamations Group in 1945 and has since remained a part of the
conglomerate. Some of Higginbotham's famous customers were Clement Attlee
, Chakravarti Rajagopalachari
. Rev. Miller, who established
the Madras Christian
, 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..
Higginbothams has a chain of 22 outlets spread across the South Indian states of Tamil Nadu, Andhra
Pradesh, Karnataka and Kerala.
- Madras Rediscovered, Pg 81
- Madras Rediscovered, Pg 52