Richard Booth, possibly the most famous bookshop owner in Britain, has died aged 80. Here’s a little about the tremendous man, avid bibliophile, and bookshop owner.
There’s a good chance you’ll know that Hay-on-Wye is known as the town of books, but you may not know how that came to be. It’s thanks to a single person, a passionate bibliophile who transformed the town into a town of books!
Richard Booth was known locally as the King of Hay-on-Wye, having opened his first bookshop in the Powys town in the former fire station in 1961. Since then, the number of bookshops in the town has grown, Hay holds its own festival every year (one of the best known literary festivals in the world), and Hay is affectionately known as the town of books. Richard Booth is credited with all of that growth and for putting Hay on the global stage for literature lovers.
Richard Booth was a charismatic, visionary entrepreneur who was driven by fun and a love of books. He saw Hay grow into the first book town in the world (there are now 50, but Hay is still the best known), and in 2004 he was awarded an MBE. His sense of fun is still remembered fondly, on April Fools Day, 1977 he proclaimed Hay an independent kingdom, crowned himself monarch and issued passports to locals. He also gave a Christmas speech each year, and awarded Hay peerages in the town.
Put simply Richard Booth was an absolute legend who was genuinely and deeply eccentric, and his legacy will live on for many years through Hay-on-Wye, town of books, Richard Booth’s Bookshop, and the Hay festival, the biggest literary festival in the world.
Previously we wrote this piece about Richard Booth and his literary legacy, it may be of interest to you today.