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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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