The Bookshop – Discover Scotland's largest secondhand bookshop
The Bookshop used to be the only bookshop in town before "Book Town" status changed everything. Now owned by Shaun Bythell, it is Scotland's largest secondhand bookshop with around 80,000 books on its shelves.
"I bought the place in 2001," said Shaun, who grew up in Wigtown and had worked in gas pipeline construction and also as a documentary maker. "I returned to visit my parents and went into the bookshop as I always did and started talking to the owner about what I wanted to do. He said: ‘why don't you buy the shop?' I went to see my bank manager and I did."
With another 60,000 books in storage, Shaun plans to renovate another building in order to expand his thriving business located on North Main Street.
"The festival is an incredible experience," said Shaun, who has one full-time employee and two part-timers. "Our sales treble and we probably see around 800 to 900 people visiting the shop each day. The only bad thing is that we are so busy we can't attend the events during the festival."
Little Blue Book
Wild Birds in Britain
Seton Gordon Grand
Brave New World
Menavaur Books – Rare books about island life
"We specialize in books about islands," said Carolle Oram, who runs Menavaur Books along with husband Paul. "We also offer books about natural history and maritime, but islands are what we are best known for.
"There are two sorts of customer who buys books about islands – either they are a visitor to an island or they are an arm-chair visitor. We sell books to Australia, Canada, France, Japan, the US and many more countries."
The Menavaur Bookshop is located on the high street. The Orams have been booksellers for 12 years and conduct business through their shop, three to four catalogues per year and AbeBooks.
"Wigtown is one of the most undervalued and most beautiful parts of Scotland," said Carolle, who has also lived on the Isles of Scilly off the Cornish coast. "We came here three years ago from Devon. Wigtown is a quirky place full of interesting people. It's good being surrounded by so many other bookshops because it helps to attract customers."
Their bookselling intensified after the couple retired from jobs as a bank clerk and a civil servant. They have sold through AbeBooks since May 1999 and list around over 2,500 books online.
The Farne Islands - A Short History & Guide
Stone Age Island - Seven Years in New Guinea
Stories of Scotland & Its Adjacent Islands
Mrs. Thomas Geldart
ReadingLasses Bookshop Café – Coffee, cake and feminist theory
Specializing in women's studies and social sciences, the ReadingLasses Bookshop Café was the first secondhand book business to arrive in Wigtown after it was declared a booktown. It opened in December 1997 as purely a bookshop but owner Angela Everitt, a former college lecturer, added the café three years later.
"Our customers vary greatly," said Angela. "We carry plenty about feminist theory but also arts and crafts – not everything is serious. Wigtown is a lovely place and I don't have to promote my business as the booktown does it for me. The booksellers often meet in the pub at the end of the day and we also buy books together – for instance, when I bought 12,000 books from a library I shared transport and storage costs with another seller.
"I believe the future of bookselling lies with the Web and book towns. The book town idea has regenerated Wigtown – it was derelict when we arrived."
Angela's café, located on South Main Street, serves local produce and simple home-cooked food. "It's incredibly busy during the book festival – there is standing room only," she said.
ReadingLasses has 6,000 books on sale in the shop with another 12,000 books stored in a former telephone exchange building behind the café.
Why Do Women Write More Letters Than They Post?
The Life and Times of Elizabeth I
ME McCarty Bookseller – Meet one of Wigtown's most experienced booksellers
Moira McCarty is one of the most experienced booksellers in Wigtown. "I have been selling books for over 30 years and owned a shop for about 26 years," said Moira, who runs a small bookshop on North Main Street, another outlet in the Book Vaults at the Wigtown House Hotel, and has a third bookshop in the Orkneys.
"I came to Wigtown in 2002 and left a manager to look after my shop in the Orkneys," she said. "I probably have around 8,000 general secondhand books in my shop on North Main Street and they range from a few pounds to around £20 to £30 mostly.
"I became very interested in book towns several years ago after seeing what Hay-on-Wye had achieved. I like being part of a community where people do things together. The festival is a very important event for us as it occurs in a traditionally quiet time for bookselling. The marketing is also very important because this is an undeveloped area that very few people know about. We want to keep attracting new visitors."
A Fighting Chance, How We Rowed the Atlantic in 92 Days
Captain John Ridgway & Sergeant Chay Blyth
The Whale Hunt
Nelson Cole Haley
Life's Snags and How To Meet Them
Web Books – Meet two book-loving former publicans
Web Books is run by Jim and Anne Vogler – former publicans who have embraced professional bookselling and called Wigtown their home since 2001.
"We started selling books when we used to run a pub near Leighton Buzzard back in 1988," said Anne. "There was a large building attached to the pub and it wasn't being used. We tidied it up and started selling books as well as running the pub."
Web Books was created five years ago and the couple moved to Wigtown after falling in love with the place after several visits. Their bookstore is located in a spacious Georgian house 100 yards from the Bladnoch Distillery and the building doubles as their home.
"We specialize in history," said Anne. "Mainly, we offer British social and economic history that shows how life used to be. Our books go all over the world and academics are frequent customers."
Web Books has sold through AbeBooks since summer 2001 and currently lists more than 16,000 books. Overall, they own between 40,000 to 50,000 books.
John Gagg's Book of Narrow Canals
The Social Survey of Merseyside
Jones D Caradog
History of All the Events and Transactions Which Have Taken Place in India
Marquis of Wellesley
Byre Books – Movie stars, folklore and Scottish books
Specializing in secondhand books about stage and screen, folklore and Scotland, Byre Books is located in a converted barn just off Wigtown's main street. It is run by the mother-and-daughter team of Laura and Shani Mustian.
Laura took early retirement from teaching while her daughter tired of life in a bank's security department. "We love books and being in Wigtown allows us to enjoy life in the country and have a wonderful time," said Laura. "I left Glasgow to come here and Shani came from Wales."
The shop stocks around 5,000 titles with folklore and mythology selling well to visitors and stage and screen proving popular online. Byre Books have sold through AbeBooks since December 2001 – around a year after the business was formed.
"Movie scripts are very popular and have barely arrived before they are sold again," said Laura.
Oscar Wilde, his Life and Confessions
The Demon Lover & Other Stories
Popular Tales of the West Highlands 4 Vols.
GC Books – Looking for a warehouse jammed with theology and history books?
Recently taken over by new owners in May 2005, GC Books boasts a long heritage and has been around for two decades. The building, packed with books, is a disused creamery and is surrounded by Wigtown's various craftsmen.
"We call it a book warehouse but it is open to the public," said Naureen Paterson, who is employed by owner Beverley Chadband. "We're about three-quarters of a mile from the centre of Wigtown but that's no distance in a small place like this. We have two main specialties – history and theology. There are thousands of books here, at least 20,000 and then another 110 boxes of books that we haven't had a chance to open yet because we've been so busy since taking over.
"We will sell to anyone – dealers, collectors, customers through the door and customers on the Internet. Our books range from £5 to £500 and we sell to places like Australia, Thailand, Hong Kong, Europe and the US."
The Lost Princess
Last Waltz in Vienna
A History of Canada
Transformer - Science Fiction and more
Carol Weaver's Transformer business offers the largest secondhand selection of science fiction books in Scotland as well as many academic books, especially in physics and mathematics.
"I was already living in Wigtown when it became a book town. I thought it was a good opportunity and decided to become a bookseller," said the former mathematics teacher. "I have 100,000 books and place them in the shop on a rotating basis.
"I took over the stock of two science fiction bookshops in Glasgow when the owners left the business. I was friends with them and it helped me get such a huge selection of books. Bookselling is wonderful life – I enjoy what I do."
Transformer offers 5,000 books through AbeBooks and sells books to collectors around the world on a daily basis.
The J Factor
Some Will Not Die
Raymond F. Jones
Ming Books – Mystery and suspense
A seller through AbeBooks since 1998, Ming Books offers a huge selection of mystery titles in a Georgian building off Main Street with three floors of books. Marion and Robin Richmond have been bookselling for 23 years and came to Wigtown eight years ago after deciding to move their business from London to Scotland.
"We have 20,000 to 30,000 books at this location at Acre Place," said Marion. "There are about 30,000 books at another location in the town. We sell via mail order, the internet and to visitors."
The Richmonds became mystery specialists by accident. "We attended an antiquarian course in Denver and met an expert who said lots of mystery sellers in the UK were leaving the business and that we should consider it," added Marion. "We did and here we are today."
The Terrible People
The Man From St. Petersburg
Mr. Fortune, Please
Henry Christopher Bailey