The Butcher, the Baker, the Candlestick Maker…
by Rita Ricketts (Blackwell’s Historian and Bodleian Visiting Scholar, Author Adventurers All, Tales of Blackwellians, of Books, Bookmen and Reading and Writing Folk’) <Rita.Ricketts@bodleian.ox.ac.uk>
While Will King and his fellow autodidacts toiled in Blackwell’s vineyard, the diggers moved in to change the face of Broad Street’s North side. Thirteen old houses to the left of Blackwell’s until the corner of Parks Road, which in some parts dated back to medieval times, were being bulldozed to make way for Sir Gilbert Scott’s New Bodleian.1 It seemed there was no stopping the tide. More libraries were needed to house an unending supply of new books to feed an army of old and new world scholars and an increasingly literate and educated public. Blackwell’s used the opportunity to shore up its own future, rebuilding the dangerously unstable East wall of its Queen Anne Buildings. Basil Blackwell explained that this expense was a “symbol of our hope for the future.” It was also a mark of respect for the sundry folks, from all walks of life, who had plied their trades and written their lucubrations in Broad Street’s old houses since time immemorial. Things are on the move again as the New Bodleian, to be renamed the Western Library, undergoes a complete restoration, and the ground floor Blackwell Hall will honour this illustrious bookseller. This instalment tries to re-connect to the ghosts of Broad Street who may, in the imagination, walk the shelves at night. Readers of Against the Grain, should they visit Oxford, may also like to imagine all the souls who lived and worked here.
Leah was appointed Executive Director of the Charleston Conference in 2017, and has served in various roles with the Charleston Information Group, LLC, since 2004. Prior to working for the conference, she was Assistant Director of Graduate Admissions for the College of Charleston for four years. She lives in a small town near Columbia, SC, with her husband and two kids where they raise a menagerie of farm animals.