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Watkins Bookshop

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(@lashtal)
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Watkins Bookshop, London, was one of my favourite haunts as a teenager. Any trip to London always included visits to Watkins, Atlantis and Foyles. Sad news, therefore, from the Evening Standard...

Cecil Court’s esoteric book shop Watkins shuts down
Terry Kirby
26.02.10

After more than 100 years selling books about witchcraft, astrology and black magic, London's oldest esoteric bookshop has gone out of business.

Watkins Books in historic Cecil Court, off Charing Cross Road, whose customers once included occultist Aleister Crowley and WB Yeats, closed on Tuesday after trading continuously since 1897.

As well as falling sales caused by the internet and a loss of trade during the bad weather this winter, Watkins was crippled by a Β£500,000 tax bill inherited from the previous ownership. The owners are said to have struggled for two years to contest the bill, but gave up this week, making 11 staff redundant.

Tim Bryars, secretary of the Cecil Court Association, said: "We are shell-shocked. Watkins captured the very essence of Cecil Court."

Mr Byers said the current owners, a three-way partnership who had been associated with the shop since the Sixties but who only bought it three years ago, were too upset to talk.

Because the business was now in administration and the debt would be written off, he said there was hope it could be sold as a viable concern. Cecil Court, unchanged since Victorian times, houses a number of specialist bookshops.

-- http://www.thisislondon.co.uk/standard/article-23810176-cecil-courts-esoteric-book-shop-watkins-shuts-down.do

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LAShTAL


   
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Do what thou wilt shall be the whole of the Law.

I have to say even though I work for who are a leading competitor of their's, The Inner Bookshop, I am sad to see them go too. This is the way of things though now and all those people who bought their books from Amazon are in some sense responsible. With the current book trade making less and less on each sale and costs being driven up, this is inevitable. I don't see it will be possible to make it a viable business as the owners of the building in Cecil Court want a propper commercial rent which would cripple anybody trying to take over. The Inner Bookshop only survives as we have the luck that the owners of the shop own the building outright with no mortgage. Even then we have had to shut on Mondays. If people want these sort of bookshops then they have to support them and even go as far as to boycott Amazon in favour of their local occult bookshop.

Love is the law love under will.

Alex


   
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(@ianrons)
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This is sad news indeed.


   
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(@walterfive)
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"Alex_Bennett" wrote:
If people want these sort of bookshops then they have to support them and even go as far as to boycott Amazon in favour of their local occult bookshop.

Truer words are rarely said, Alex. A dear Brother of mine had to shut his shop in Dallas last year for this very reason. Excellent selection of books, *great* selection of Voudou & Hoodoo herbs, powders, and pieces. Listed in "Best of Dallas" Dallas Magazine. Shop was in a *nice* Arts District neighborhood. Can't say it was exactly "bad economy," it's the same in every small business-- how can they compete?

A participant in such a boycott has to realize that his local shop will typically charge 20-40% higher than Amazon (who often low-ball book prices), and unless they have a working relationship with the individual publisher, won't get the latest releases for days or weeks after Amazon customers will have their copies in their hands. My Brother tells me that distributors like Weiser/Red Wheel didn't make it any easier for him, either. Either they wanted orders way larger than he could afford, or gave him little of a wholesaler's discount. And we won't even discuss Llewellyn, who remaindered their books so quickly that their books didn't collect dust on his shelves before he found them on sale below his wholesale cost at Half Price Books.

Me, as a collector, I buy on-line a lot, usually direct from the producer such as the VERY excellent Hell-Fire Book Club or Starfire Press, or from a distributor specializing in autographed 1st editions, like Weiser Antiquarian. Would that I had a shop that I could find works like these available. I'd be more than happy to squander my hard-earned shekels in his tent-stall. Amazon has dealt a terrible blow to the independant book-seller.

The most successful occult shop owner I know now makes his *real* bread and butter money vending weekends at various Rennaissance Festivals in the TX, OK and LA states; he only carries books because he's an occultist himself; his best sellers are actually antique weapon replicas, costumes, and witchy/occult jewelry. He keeps his store because it's an expense write-off and a place to store his weekend merchandise. A Rare and Used Book dealer I know (and used to score some great books from)closed his storefront of 25 years; he had more sales through on-line sellers such as A-Libris and ABEBooks than he did from the browsers in his bookstore, and he doesn't have to spend thousands each month on staff or his store-front.


   
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Similar sad news re the Bodhi Tree Bookstore in Los Angeles, really the last of its kind here in LA.

http://www.bodhitree.com/

A haunt of mine for many, many years. (Funny thing, they used to keep the AC books in a locked case, a precaution against them 'magically disappearing.' These are kept today in an even more remote location, on shelves in the 'employees only' office, were they can be browsed only under the watchful eye of the shop clerks.)

Sad to see the old 'occult' bookstores closing.


   
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(@michaelclarke18)
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I feel absolutely sick about Watkins going into administration. Had I known of the financial situation, I would definitely have made the effort to buy more from there, although over the years I have made many, many purchases.

Though, I always thought they were doing well as the shop was always busy, and when downstairs, it was always possible to hear the guys on the phones selling/reserving various volumes for customers. Though the half million pound debt is probably beyond the reach of most bookshops - let alone more specialist ones.

I only hope that at some future point, another similar shop will emerge from the ashes of this one.


   
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Well - thier website is still there and I'm sure you can show your support for Watkins by visiting thier website and registering to thier newsletter. It will be the task of the administrators to make the business look as good as possible to a new buyer, and simple things like this will help. Hopefully, the business will not be swallowed up by one of the larger fish who will only be interested in the wholesale value of the stock and not the tradition, but doing things like registering for their newsletter if enough numbers register will help persuade possible buyers that Watkins is a good brand that people are still interested in and not just a defunct source of stock.


   
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gurugeorge
(@gurugeorge)
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Sad news. I've always bought books in Watkins and Atlantis (I only found out about Treadwells recently, unfortunately, but I support them too now). Such a pleasure to browse along with one's fellow nutters πŸ™‚

But then, I live in London.

I think the internet developments are mostly positive on the whole, the world is changing, information wants to be free and all that, and it's mostly to the good; but you'd think there'd be room for at least a couple of flagship brick and mortar occult bookshops in this world!


   
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What a shame. I've browsed and bought at Watkins for 25 years and always found the shop well stocked and the staff helpful. Let's hope 100 years doesn't go down the pan and they can find a buyer and continue serving the community. I wonder how much our changing purchasing habits with Amazon and Abebooks has pushed this?


   
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(@lashtal)
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My thanks to Frater FS for this from today's Evening Standard...

Witchcraft bookshop saved as if by magic

London's oldest esoteric bookshop, which closed last month after more than a century, is to re-open.

Watkins Books in Cecil Court off Charing Cross Road, whose customers included occultist Aleister Crowley and poet WB Yeats, owed Β£500,000 in tax.

Now American Etan Ilfeld, who owns an art gallery in the street, has bought it from the administrators.

The shop, which sells books on magic, astrology, the occult, Eastern religions and witchcraft, will resume trading from tomorrow.

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Another 'evil American with his money' to the rescue, thank goodness and evil. πŸ˜‰


   
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Very happy that Watkins has been resuced. But look at how the carrion rip what could have been the everlasting memory of this fine shop to shreds by telling the public that they sell books about 'Witchcraft, Astrology and BLACK MAGIC' (Evening Standard).

So much for free speech. How could Watkins possibly ripost such a mischievous slur?


   
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(@fergus)
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"SpaceGoat" wrote:
Very happy that Watkins has been resuced. But look at how the carrion rip what could have been the everlasting memory of this fine shop to shreds by telling the public that they sell books about Dear Spacegoat, know what you mean but there's the cartoon world of media cliches for you. I am quite confident the works of AC will outlive the Daily Express, which I think we will account as a triumph when it happens!

   
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(@alysa)
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Also I'm very happy that Watkins will remain in existence, though I not yet visited it I think the historic and esoteric relevance of that business, has been for a very long time proven by now, I shall visit the place some other time when I'm in London, yes, I think it's good that there besides very good occult businesses like Atlantis and Treadwell's in London there still remains that other important one. So good on you Watkins, and go for it!


   
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(@abuldiz)
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93!

This is excellent news, i hope more people have been made aware that this shop exists and support it after this episode, London would never be the same without it. I feel like i've woken up from a bad dream ❗

93's

AbulDiz.


   
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gurugeorge
(@gurugeorge)
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Huzzah! πŸ˜€


   
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Great news indeed... Though it just happens to be my bad karma to have been in London earlier this week (for the first time in 20 years) during the time it was closed! πŸ™

Still, Atlantis was great (I took a pass on seeing Jean Overton Fuller's paintings of chickens in the basement), and Treadwells managed to relieve me of much of that pesky cash I was carrying around. πŸ™‚ However, my biggest surprise was to see something in a big chain bookstore (Waterstones, I think) that one would never, ever see in one here in the States: Grant's Outer Gateways!

Steve


   
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"SteveCranmer" wrote:
However, my biggest surprise was to see something in a big chain bookstore (Waterstones, I think) that one would never, ever see in one here in the States: Grant's Outer Gateways!

Wow! Brilliant - surely this is The Natural Order of Things?

Reminds me of my surprise at seeing a massive pile of Aleister Crowley e il dio occulto (AC and the Hidden God in Italian translation) at ... what's that big mainstream bookshop in Milano ... anyhow it is a big mainstream bookshop in Milano and it had a big pile of this book for about twenty bucks each. This and an Astrolabio edition of Magick were the main texts I used to supplement the Italian language classes I was taking. Crowley's style (for that book in particular) still comes across in translation which is kind of amusing!


   
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I would like to urge Londoneers to buy some books at the bookshop to show support in their situation.

I will myself try to find something I need and order by mail.


   
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Great news. I'm certainly planning to pay a visit (and perhaps buy a book or three...) when I'm in London at the start of June.


   
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(@michaelclarke18)
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Yes, I can happily confirm that Watkins is back - albeit with some new staff. I visited the shop yesterday evening, and I made a few purchases, and intend to make a few more to support the shop. Happily, although it was late Friday, when I was there the shop was positively buzzing with visitors.
I'd encourage all to make a few purchases, no mattter how small, to keep this wonderful bookshop going.


   
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(@lashtal)
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This from West End Extra, with a photograph including a fairly prominently placed copy of Symonds' "The Beast 666"…

US film producer supplies the magic to save occult bookshop

Published: 2 April 2010
by ALISTAIR KLEEBAUER

A 113-YEAR-old occult bookshop which was close to extinction has been saved by a friendly neighbour.

Watkins Books, the oldest esoteric bookshop in London, has been trading since 1897, but was forced to close on February 23 after being placed in administration.

Luckily Etan Ilfeld, who owns two galleries opposite the shop in Cecil Court, off Charing Cross Road, was on hand to buy the business.

β€œIt was a great cause to save it and I want it to survive another century,” said Mr Ilfeld, 32, of Dean Street.

β€œI’m living and breathing Cecil Court at the moment.”

Few other bookshops could cover subjects as diverse as eastern philosophies and conspiracy theories and stock books including The Living Temple of Witchcraft and Drawing Down The Spirits.

But Mr Ilfeld, an American film producer who moved to London in 2007, had to beat off a number of rival bidders, including one who intended to turn the bookshop into an online-only business.

The shop was able to reopen on March 13 to a surprised public, with two customers bringing bottles of champagne to celebrate.

β€œIt was shock and relief rolled into one,” said shop manager Ricky James, 54.

Original owner John Watkins reviewed occult books and was urged to start the shop by Russian mystic Helena Petrovna Blavatsky, who founded her own doctrine of theosophy, a forerunner of the philosophy behind Steiner schools.

When John died in 1947 the shop passed to his son Geoffrey and visitors have included famous English occultist Aleister Crowley and poet William Butler Yeats.

β€œI wasn’t sure about it at first, it’s a huge responsibility,” said Mr Ilfeld.

β€œIt was very touch and go as to whether it would survive.”

The collapse of the Net Book Agreement, which forced booksellers to stick to retail prices, along with the growth of online shops like Amazon took its toll on Watkins.

But with plans to grow their own web presence, including YouTube videos, and to expand their stock to include subjects such as UFOs, Mr Ilfeld was hopeful about its future.

β€œPeople know they will get a quality experience when they come to the shop,” he said.

If it is still open in another 100 years, he will have been proven right.

Tim Bryers, 36, owner of his own antique map and book shop at 8 Cecil Court was delighted by the news, especially as he also runs the Court’s traders association.

β€œIt was a big worry for us partly because of the historical association which no one wants to lose but also because we don’t want to have a range of empty units,” he said.

He also revealed that the original Foyles bookshop had opened in Cecil Court in 1904 and that John Watkins had lent the Foyles brothers money to pay their staff.

Perhaps its time to call in a favour.

--- http://www.westendextra.com/news/2010/apr/us-film-producer-supplies-magic-save-occult-bookshop

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(@michaelclarke18)
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I think Watkins a very viable business - the shop is rarely empty, with the phones always ringing downstairs.


   
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Alan_OBrien
(@alan_obrien)
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Watkins is selling a very interesting book: Esezezus By Orryelle Defenestrate-Bascule. Not bad at $69.00


   
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