Dover Bookshop to close

Sad news from London’s Covent Garden – the Dover Bookshop, the walk-in image library specialising in royalty free pictures, is to close at the end of March. We spoke to bookshop manager, Tim Matthews, about the end of a 27-year run on Earlham Street

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Photo: File Magazine//citylikeyou

Sad news from London’s Covent Garden – the Dover Bookshop, the walk-in image library specialising in royalty free pictures, is to close at the end of March. We spoke to bookshop manager, Tim Matthews, about the end of a 27-year run on Earlham Street…

Founded in 1986 by Mark Oddie, the Dover Bookshop is hard to miss with its bright yellow frontage and sign featuring a design donated by the artist Eduardo Paolozzi, a long-time fan of the shop. But missed it will be when, at the end of next month, it closes its doors for the last time.

It was originally established as a shop selling the Pictorial Archive range of titles from the US-based Dover publisher, and has since proven to be something of a haven for artists and designers. Its hundreds of books of copyright free imagery feature everything from Japanese border patterns to Victorian medical illustrations.

Julie Verhoeven, Paul Smith and even Vivienne Westwood have used Dover pictures in their work. Artist Stanley Donwood also made use of Dover imagery in the title graphic on the cover of Thom Yorke’s album, The Eraser (above).

Matthews cites “the recession suppressing budgets in agencies, studios, institutions” as having played a major role in the shop’s demise. The economic climate, he says, has also affected “discretionary purchases, gift and casual buyers, lunchtime trade and Christmas buying”. The fall-out from nearby Charing Cross Road as it declined as a focus for bookselling also affected the Dover site, while other local changes have seen the area around Earlham Street move from niche specialist shops to larger chains.

Dover’s own output has also declined in recent years, admits Matthews, with a limited range of new titles being published, but its biggest competitor is now the range of cheap (and free) images that can be sourced online.

In 2006, I interviewed Matthews for a feature on the shop and was soon aware of his unique position as someone keyed-in to the work of the local creative community. Matthews was (and is) well placed to see the ebb and flow of particular fascinations with imagery – back when we met in 2006, for example, heraldic imagery was apparently highly sought after.

For now, the Dover Bookshop is running a closing down sale, with 20% off all Dover titles in the shop or a 10% discount online (with free P&P). Best of luck to Tim and all his staff at the shop.

The Dover Bookshop is at 18 Earlham Street, London WC2H 9LG.


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  • Anonymous

    The bookshop wasn’t “hard to miss” if you thought it was in Soho.

    It was in Covent Garden.

  • @Anonymous Thanks, have amended that

  • Gutted. Loved popping in here and coming out with a “just in case” random book of images / inspiration for future projects.

  • Liam

    It really is a shame, that another charming shop falls to the knees of digital.
    Sad thing is, I can’t imagine many putting up a truly good fight anytime soon.

  • alexparrott

    Surely, in an age where copyright free imagery use is on the up as clients and studios spend more wisely, Dover would be doing great trade? I recently worked on a project that I knew Dover would most likely have, but I didn’t have time to get to the shop and browse through books, so had to settle with an online alternative. If they digitised their collection and had a simple to use website the well known (and loved) brand could live on and this vast resource would not be lost.

  • K-S-T

    Yeah this is a big shame. Heritage this was for Seven Dials. I hope someone with the commitment and funds will decide to snap it up and add whatever functional strategy it needs to stay afloat.

  • claire

    I agree with Alex, think their antiquated website lead to their undoing in the end.

  • F**k the recession

    The business need not die if it embraces the times and gets all those great resources as purchasable downloads (it also means you can sell the same imagery to multiple customers, from locations further afield than just London) onto a decent website with a usable catalogue. You’d cut so many overheads and could work on bringing back physical pop-up shops or events in the long-run for those who’re worried about the sentimentality of the experience itself.

    Less mourning more “every cloud” reactivity!

  • Anonymouse

    Maybe the government should make more of an effort to chase the tax evading big retailers and use the money to support smaller quirkier businesses like Dover.

    The soul of our cities are slowly being sucked dry. Sad times.

  • James

    Digitsing their collection would no doubt take up a lot of time / money which they probably didn’t have. But then you have to spend to accumulate. Bit of a catch 22. Shame.

  • david janes

    Terrible news

  • Tom

    People who are saying it’s a shame, when was the last time you went in and made a big purchase?
    Never? A year ago? 10?

    I really don’t think some small independents help themselves when they refuse to get with the times.
    You can’t stick to a 20th century concept in todays world, you’ll just crash and burn.
    The comments above saying they should digitize their collections are right, but they should have done it 5-10 years ago when revenues were still probably high and they could have had an easily manageable process in place.

    Instead awful shit is sold on istockphoto everyday and places like Dover shut up shop.

    If you’re not going to move forwards then you’re just sitting there waiting to go bust.

  • A

    ” People who are saying it’s a shame, when was the last time you went in and made a big purchase?
    Never? A year ago? 10?

    This is so true, im really sad about the news but havent gone into the shop for about 9 months. Will probably head down today at some point. I usually don care when shops are closing. HMV, Woolworths, I think its just times a changing. But small, charming independents like this, it really is a shame and its not just the shop to blame for not going online, but us to for being so damn lazy and taking these things for graned.

  • Mark Oddie

    Dover Publications New York ..the source of most of our books are in the process of going on the net with the images. Time for us to close. Thanks to all our loyal customers. Do come in soon for a last browse and buy a couple of books ! Mark Oddie ..founder and proprietor

  • James

    @ Tom

    I’ve never been to the moon but it would still be a shame if it shut up shop

  • Sad to hear it’s over for Dover. I’m working on a project now featuring images from a splendidly odd book from the shop. Losing nice little shops like this is akin to losing great little pubs and is a sad reflection that we’re all spending too long staring at screens and dicking about on the internet. Part of the shop’s charm was that it didn’t try and ‘keep up with times’ – HMV tried to do that and is dying the death it deserves for not simply concentrating on being a great music shop.

  • Some strong expressions of sang-froid here. Will we all feel the same when we go bust?

  • Sad news, but expected in the current climate unfortunately.

  • I BLAME THE INTERWEB AND TESCO! seriously, this place is better than Jessops, HMV, GAME and JJB rolled in to one. RIP DOVER X

  • Gavin Day

    You don’t have to be popping in twice a month to empathise with a business selling great products.

    This is a shame. Long live Dover!

  • what a pitty! Hope another shop open quickly!

  • stuart tegg

    [deleted by moderator]

  • rosie notts

    move to hay on wye Dover or somewhere where beautiful specialist shops are still appreciated. Some of us artist still like to browse and buy a real book-after all which way is best for your health? Heaven help us when all the human race does is sit in a box tapping with our thumbs! Shocked to hear of this news.

  • Kay

    Does anyone know a London store selling similar things? I’m lost without Dover.