London's 'Booksellers' Row': Harry Potter, Alice in Wonderland and the occult in Cecil Court

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Cecil Court in Westminster is a unique London street, where book lovers can make rare and unusual finds.

Tucked away in a Victorian street in central London is the last bastion of the independent bookselling community in the city.

While Charing Cross Road retains its flagship Foyles store and smattering of other traders, Cecil Court is where you will find a collection of shops selling everything from children's boks to more esoteric material.

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Known as 'Booksellers' Row', it connects Charing Cross Road with St Martin's Lane, in Covent Garden.

Matthew, from Marchpane, said: "I think it's a rather lovely thing. There aren't that many bookshops concentrated into one area in London anymore.

"Although Charing Cross Road used to be full of the most exquisite bookshops - all the way up and down Charing Cross Road - this is now the one tiny area that's left.

"This bookshop in particular was the origin of Foyles bookshop, which was the largest bookshop in the world at one point, and which is now a little bit further up on Charing Cross Road. It was founded in 1989 by a man called Kenneth Fuller and we've specialised in Alice in Wonderland and Through the Looking Glass ever since we opened. 

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"We have an original Dalek from 1975 and we buy and sell all sorts of different rare children's books dating back to the late-17th/early-18th centuries, right through to now.

"We have a lot of people who come in asking about Harry Potter or Grimm's Fairy Tales or the Moomins books. We have plenty of those examples, as well as many other things. It's a lovely bookshop to work in."

Matthew from Marchpane in Cecil Court, Covent Garden.Matthew from Marchpane in Cecil Court, Covent Garden.
Matthew from Marchpane in Cecil Court, Covent Garden. | Jack Abela

He said that due to the recession, more people are coming in to sell books at the moment than to buy.

As a highlight in the shop right now he picked out Gray's Elegy, illuminated by Owen Jones, saying: "It has the most exciting, most beautiful cover, which looks like carved wood but it's actually leather, tooled leather. It was published in 1846 and it's just one of the most exquisite illuminated manuscripts I have ever seen."

He joked: "I'd be heartbroken if someone wanted to buy it."

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Hugh, from Watkins Bookshop, said: "Watkins Bookshop started 130 years ago down on The Strand, near Trafalgar Square, and moved to this location about 100 years ago.

They've been doing pretty much the same sort of books, which are esoteric, occult, comparative religion and all the connected subjects around those.

"People who love this type of subject definitely know Watkins and we are one of the three bookshops in London - also Treadwell's and Atlantis Bookshop up by the British Museum cover similar subjects - but we very much are proud of the range of our material." 

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