Blackwell’s in Books

Oxford is renowned for having produced some fabulous novelists and novels, but did you know that Blackwell’s Bookshop features in a surprising amount of them? Over the years we’ve gathered up a little collection of the novels that feature us – sometimes in a starring role and sometimes just as a throwaway mention. Here’s a selection of our favourites…

Evelyn Waugh – Brideshead Revisited (Little, Brown and Company, Boston, 1945)

Meeting Mr. Samgrass, whom we had seen less often of late, told him of our choice. 

He was standing at the table in Blackwell’s where recent German books were displayed, setting aside

little heap of purchases.– p.140

Book Lovers Quotations ed. Helen Exley (Exley Publications Ltd, 1991)

In books we have compendium of all human experience. We may use them or neglect them as we will, 

but if we use them, we may share the courage and endurance of adventurers, 

the thoughts of sages, the vision of poets and the raptures of lovers, and

some few of us perhapsthe ecstasies of Saints.– SirBasilBlackwell.

Colin Dexter – Death is now my Neighbour: An Inspector Morse Novel. (Crown Publishers Inc. New York, 1996)

Morse wandered across to the green-shuttered Blackwell’s and browsed awhile; 

finally purchasing the first volume of Sir Steven Runciman’s History of the Crusades.p.282

Larry McMurtry – Some Can Whistle: A Novel (Simon and Schuster, NY, 1989)

resolved, however, to call up Blackwell’s first thing in the morning and order all the books they had 

on hermits and hermitry…’ p.186








E. Tangye Lean – Storm in Oxford, A Fantasy (Cobden-Sanderson, London, 1932)

In perfect harmony opposite the stately grandeur of the Sheldonian stood the world’s supreme bookshop, 

Blackwell’s, with it simple blue frontage and air of quiet stateliness.”  p.82

Javier Marias – All Souls (Harvill, London, 1992)

saw him nosing around…in the second-hand section of Blackwell’s monumental

and comprehensive emporium…p.78

The Kenneth Roberts Reader – Doubleday, Doran and Company, NY, 1945)

Blackwell’s is good bookshop – a splendid bookshop. 

In the product of an Oxford author’s pen, Blackwell’s is modestly referred to as 

the Greatest Bookshop in the World.p.151-2

Maida Stainer – The New Oxford Spy (Shakespeare Head Press, Oxford, 1969)

The well is deep, Black Well, you’d say

And deep, yes very deep.

People peer into its depths all day

In a profound, reflective way,

Or maybe they’re just asleep.” p.52

James Atlas – The Great Pretender (Athenum, NY, 1986)

How could I confess that I’d spent my afternoons browsing in Blackwells…?”








Ved Mehta – John is Easy to Please (Secker & Warburg, London, 1971)

When the exile returns to Oxford, after years abroad, he visits his college – and Blackwell’s. It is more than great bookshop; it is an institution.p.80-1

Hal Cheetham – Portrait of Oxford (Robert Hale, London, 1971)

Several geological ages ago, warm shallow sea covered Oxfordshire… 

Cockles clung to the spot on which Blackwell’s Bookshop was to be built.p.25

Jeanette Winterson – Why Be Happy When You Could Be Normal? 2011 (978009956091)

left St Catherine’s and walked down Holywell Street to Blackwell’s bookshop. 

had never seen shop with five floors of books. felt dizzy, like too much oxygen all at once.’ p.137

These are just a selection of some of the one’s we’ve found, and of course, we’d still love to expand our little collection – so it’s over to you! Have you ever stumbled across Blackwell’s in the pages of your favourite novel? If so then we’d love to hear what you’ve found… either leave us a comment or tweet us @blackwelloxford.


  1. “A little shopfront on The Broad bore the name Blackwell’s. It didn’t look terribly promising, but someone had told my dad that this was the Mecca of academic bookshops. Entering the shop you realized why. Like Doctor Who’s Tardis, the shop was huge onece you had entered the tiny front door. Mathematics books, we were told, were downstairs in the Norrington Room…”

    ~ Marcus du Sautoy, “Finding Moonshine”

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s