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Story Of Higginbotham

Discussion in 'Interesting Shares' started by Cheeniya, Oct 16, 2021.

  1. Cheeniya

    Cheeniya Super Moderator Staff Member IL Hall of Fame

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    The Stowaway who gave India it’s oldest bookstore!


    Over 180 years ago a young Englishman Abel Joshua Higginbotham boarded a ship. When discovered by the captain, he was thrown out at the port of then Madras presidency. Luckily for him, being a librarian, he found employment as a store manager of Wesleyan Book Shop. The store catered to local theologians and largely sold religious works.

    Abel was a sincere and dedicated worker, but the mission was losing its profits and in 1844, when they decided to shut the store, they offered Higginbotham the option of buying out the stock.

    Higginbotham’s mother died when he was 12 and he was in the care of missionaries of the Church of Scotland. His obit, written soon after his death in 1891, states that he had two careers before he went on to become the owner of the bookstore. One was that of a seaman, an occupation he took up after he completed school. The vagaries of the sea, and the rough life, evidently didn’t appeal to him. When he tried to abandon his ship and return to India, he was caught and compelled to serve out his apprenticeship. A myth or two soon grew that he had been a stowaway, trying to steal his way into a seaman’s career.

    A J Higginbotham took the opportunity; he bought the shop and renamed it *‘Higginbotham’*

    The store gained popularity for its quality of books and diversity of subjects, Abel was adept at tracking down and procuring rare and in-demand books.

    A guide book published in 1859 by John Murray titled Presidencies of Madras and Bombay listed Higginbotham as a _‘premier book shop’_

    If you are a book-lover and live in Chennai the name “Higginbotham” is bound to stir up a lot of memories. For all old-timers residing in Chennai, whether it was where they bought their first book or the classic chequered flooring, its high arches or the wooden railings, Higginbotham brings fond remembrances

    The beloved bookstore once served royals, Prime Ministers, and institutions for more than a century. India’s oldest bookstore, still in business after 175 years, began with a stowaway and his sheer luck

    Higginbotham opened its first bookstore in Bangalore at M.G. Road in 1905 in a two-storey Graeco-Roman-style building constructed in 1897. This is the oldest bookstore in existence in the city

    The opening of the Suez Canal in 1869 provided Europe with direct access to Asia in record time. The three-month journey from England to India was reduced to three weeks. Trade and tourism increased and ships carrying foreign goods arrived quickly. Large crates for Higginbotham were being offloaded at the Madras port. They contained precious cargo—books and publications that were topping the bestseller lists in Europe

    Higginbotham became India’s largest bookstore chain in the 19th century. As it grew, so did its reputation

    History has it that Prince of Wales, later King Edward VII, was a voracious reader. Higginbotham was also appointed as his official bookseller when he visited India in 1876. They were called upon to provide the prince with appropriate reading material following his arrival at the Royapuram Station in Madras. This led the bookshop to attract a large number of elite clientele. By the beginning of the 20th century, Higginbotham had already become the official book supplier for the government and expanded to publishing with cookbooks

    Their customers ranged from the British Prime Minister Clement Atlee to the Maharaja of Mysore, Jayachamaraja Wodeyar. Hardly surprising then that Mulligatawny Soup and Madras Curry Powder became legacies of the British Raj only after Higginbotham first printed their recipes

    A J Higginbotham passed away in 1891, leaving his son C H Higginbotham, in charge. After he took over, he went on to spread this legacy across south India. The bookshop shifted to its present location at Mount road (now Anna Salai); the white building is one of the landmark and heritage structures in the city

    By the 1940s, it had stalls at the Central Railway Station in Chennai, and the Ernakulam Junction Railway Station in Kochi, making books accessible to travellers

    After Independence, in 1949, *S Anantharamakrishnan* of the _Amalgamations Group_ took over the bookstore—the year the company became an Indian company. Despite its long history, Higginbotham remains young by constantly meeting the ever-changing needs of its esteemed customers. Even in this digital age physical books retain their charm. Regional language publications have always been dear to Higginbotham. The Chennai showroom has an exclusive section for Tamil books.



    At present, the Higginbotham group has more than 20 stores spread across South India. The Chennai store holds a special place in history as the first and the oldest bookstore, with an ambience that takes you back to a time long gone
     
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  2. Cheeniya

    Cheeniya Super Moderator Staff Member IL Hall of Fame

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    The soft drinks of Higginbotham used to be very tasty and famous. Their cherry drink used to be my top favorite.
     
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  3. anika987

    anika987 Finest Post Winner

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    Thanks for the share.
    Interesting and informative.I am from Chennai and the word higginbotham brings back fond memories:)
     
  4. Thyagarajan

    Thyagarajan IL Hall of Fame

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    The post is nostalgic .thanks.
    My maiden visit to Higginbotham's was sometime in 1954 when my dad was looking for his regular stout palm width diary PUBLISHED BY HOE & Co. after that I have frequented this store several times not necessarily for buying books but as a rendezvous.

    Once, while studying engineering I needed a technical book printed and published in USA. It was not available anywhere in India. But this publishing company got me the original within some three weeks.

    As a family once we are caught in hot may summer near this shop and while waiting for another family to join us we took shelter here. We spent almost two hours browsed through several books, magazines & periodicals in English and Tamil stacked and exhibited nicely and prominently all through the floors ground , first and second.

    Regards.
     
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