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.).
How, in cramped-for-space Oxford, did Blackwell's manage to create enough space for the Norrington
Room? They excavated under neighboring Exeter College, that's how! So while students pour over books in their rooms 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.
See also: Blackwell's online