Colchester at Work

Whether you call it Britain’s oldest recorded town or its first city, there is no doubt that Colchester has a long and fascinating history and has enjoyed national and international prominence in many fields. Most well-known is probably its importance for the wool trade which dates right back to the thirteenth century when surnames like dyer, weaver and fuller became common.

In the eighteenth-century Colchester was one of the most important provincial clockmaking centres in the country with over a hundred watch and clockmakers working in the town. More recently in the mid 1860’s James Paxman set up an engineering works manufacturing steam engines and boilers which were delivered all over the world.

 From the manufacture of pottery in the Iron Age and Roman periods to the closure of the Hythe as a port in 2001, here is a book that explores Colchester’s history through the occupations and industries that people have worked in through the years.

Amberley Publishing, paperback £14.99

Home and Abroad: paintings by David Britton

Paintings by David Britton
New art exhibition opens March 2nd in our downstairs gallery area.

The artist will be in the shop to meet and talk with our customers

Saturday March 2nd 2-4 pm


David Britton went to Colchester Grammar School and then studied history at New College, Oxford. After a number of years in teaching, trying to fit painting and poetry round the edges, he left teaching to concentrate on art. After some time spent in the, to him, rather alien environment of Sheffield, he is back in his beloved native landscape of north-east Essex, living on Mersea Island and once again creating vast, haunting canvases which capture the big skies and the special play of light on land and water in Essex/Suffolk border country. Since his first one man exhibition at Project B Gallery, Colchester in 1975 David has exhibited widely establishing a reputation as one of our leading local artists.

What Price Culture?

A few days ago, a customer approached our counter. She had in her hand the just published, new edition of that wonderful reference work ‘Brewer’s Dictionary of Phrase and Fable.’  Endlessly fascinating, it is an idiosyncratic treasure trove of word history, culture, folk lore and legend – and one of my favourite books. At £45.00 the price was rather more than our customer was expecting. I encouraged her saying that, running to 1600 pages, it’s a monster of a book and one that will be used time and time again. For the right person it will become a loved friend in the bookshelf for a lifetime. Looked at in those terms, £45.00 seems less daunting – more an investment for a lifetime resource.

However, it seems a less worthwhile investment when the Book People and Amazon are selling it for £12.99.

I am well aware that since the demise of the Net Book Agreement every retailer can set their own prices for all books. I also recognise that, like supermarkets, some retailers of books might sometimes choose to sell at an unrealistic price as a ‘loss leader’. However, we also all know that there is some relationship between the discount a publisher gives and the price that a company can realistically sell at.

I think it is clear that selling new book at over 70% discount (plus free postage on a heavy book) is way beyond normal discounting of new titles and one can only presume that the publisher, Hachette’s, John Murray, has given a discount which allows this. If so, then surely it is short sighted. It undermines sales through High Street shops which are under enough pressure anyway. Shops who support and sell across the range of John Murray’s books.

If you consider the publisher’s earned income from a title across different market sectors, then the only conclusion that can be drawn is that in reality High Street bookshops are subsidising the discounts given to online and ‘direct to consumer’ operations like the Book People.

We and our customers, by paying the full price, are treated like mugs.

‘Brewers Dictionary of Phrase and Fable’ might be a relatively recent addition to the list but I believe at least six generations of John Murrays will be turning in their graves!

Published in ‘The Bookseller’ magazine November 2018.