The history of the well-known landmark on Anna Salai is the – Higginbotham’s, which is the country’s oldest surviving name in bookselling started with Abel Joshua Higginbotham. A stowaway on a ship who was left on the streets of Madras by an angry captain. Abel Joshua Higginbotham started his career in Madras by selling copies Bibles to Soldiers. Later he got appointed as a librarian in the Wesleyan Book Depository which was run by Protestant missionaries. However, the store suffered heavy losses and the missionaries who ran the business decided to sell their shop for a low price. Higginbotham purchased the business and set up his own store and called it “Higginbotham’s” in the year 1844. The Higginbotham’s Bookstore is therefore, India’s oldest bookstore in existence.
Higginbotham’s started selling stationery and also publishing and printing their own books from the 1860s onwards and as the book shop grew, so did their reputation too.
- Higginbotham’s was appointed as the “official bookseller to His Royal Highness, the Prince of Wales” during the latter’s visit to India in 1875.
- Higginbotham’s also became the official book supplier to the government and varied institutions with customers ranging from the then British Prime Minister Clement Attlee to the last Maharaja of Mysore, Jayachamaraja Wodeyar.
- Abel Joshua Higginbotham served as the Sheriff of Madras in 1888 and 1889.
- From 1890 to 1920, Higginbotham’s was the sole supplier of books to the Connemara Public Library.
In 1891, Abel Higginbotham died, leaving his son C.H. Higginbotham in charge. “After his son took over, the bookshop shifted to where it is now, on Mount Road.
In 1949, S. Anantharamakrishnan of the Amalgamations Group took over the bookstore from the Higginbothams family. His son A. Krishnamoorthy is now its chairman.
With Landmark getting popular and turning out to be a one-stop destination for books, movies, music and gift-articles Higginbotham’s has lost its sheen to a certain extent. Plus they have to battle online sellers like flipkart, snapdeal, amazon and a host of other online retailers. The times ahead are tough but Higginbotham’s with its pristine white British architecture will always hold a special place in every Madras-vasi’s heart!