It is rare that a bookstore becomes a tourist attraction, but Blackwell's is not just any bookstore. For one thing, it lays claim to the largest single room devoted to book sales in Europe, the cavernous Norrington Room (10,000sq.ft.)

Blackwell's main entrance on Broad Street
Blackwell's main entrance on Broad Street

How, in cramped-for-space Oxford, did Blackwell's manage to create enough space for the Norrington Room? They excavated under neighboring Trinity College Gardens, that's how! So while students walk and - hopefully - study above, shoppers peruse endless shelves of books well underground.

In truth, Blackwell's is not one Oxford bookstore, but nine! The main store at 48-51 Broad Street is the largest, holding 250,000 volumes, but there are also specialised stores for Art, Music, Rare Books, Paperbacks, Maps and Travel, Medicine, Children's Books, and a University bookstore. The main store also has a large used books section.

Benjamin Blackwell founded his store in 1879 in a tiny building at 50 Broad Street, which is now the main store. That first store measured only 12 feet square, and held just 700 used books! Blackwell's catered exclusively to the academic market, and gradually opened new stores in university towns around the UK.

Since the 1920s Blackwell's has also published its own text books, medical texts, and periodicals.

Editor's Notes: I have visited Blackwell's more times than I care to remember. I don't know if I've ever left without buying something. It's that sort of shop(s). If you love books, you will not be able to tear yourself away from Blackwell's!

See also: Blackwell's online