Open main menu

Benjamin Henry Blackwell (10 January 1849 – 26 October 1924)[1] was an English bookseller and politician, best known for founding the Blackwell's chain of bookshops in Oxford.

Blackwell was born at 46 High Street, St Clement's, Oxford, the son of librarian Benjamin Harris Blackwell and Nancy "Ann" Stirling Lambert.[2] He left formal education aged 13, working as an apprentice for local bookseller Charles Richards. Originally, he had hopes of becoming a librarian like his father; however his application for the post of City Librarian for Cardiff was turned down due to his lack of formal education. An entry from his diary shows that in spite of this setback, Blackwell intended to continue working in the book trade:

I have now been with Mr Rose six years and seem likely to stay for a year or two, at the end of which I hope to be able with a little assistance to open in London or elsewhere a business on my own account."[3]

In 1879, he opened his own shop, B.H. Blackwell's, on Broad Street in Oxford.[4] The local fame he gained as a result enabled him to successfully campaign for political office, and he served as Liberal Councillor for Oxford North.[5]

In 1920, he received the Freedom of the City of London.[2]


  1. ^ "Obituary". The Yorkshire Post. 29 October 1924. p. 3. Retrieved 2014-08-07 – via The British Newspaper Archive. [Entire piece] The death occurred at Oxford on Sunday of Mr. B. H. Blackwell, the well-known bookseller and publisher. Mr. Blackwell was 75 years of age and his shop in the "Broad" was the resort of dons and undergraduates alike.
  2. ^ a b London, England, Freedom of the City Admission Papers, 1681-1930
  3. ^ Benjamin Henry Blackwell, personal diary entry, 1877
  4. ^ Ricketts, Rita; A Moment in Time. Blackwell's at the Bodleian. An exhibition of selected editions of Chaucer's Canterbury Tales. introductory exhibition notes, 2004
  5. ^ Blackwell's: Company History