Sedbergh – England’s book town

POSTED ON: BY Angela Roche
8'6 NET

On a recent trip to Cumbria with my better half we stayed in a cottage near a little town called Sedbergh. As luck would have it, it turned out that this lovely little place in the hills is England’s book town.

According to a booktown is “…a town, usually small and usually rural, which has brought together a number of bookshops and other businesses based on writing, reading, publishing and so on. In practice many of the shops will concentrate on selling second-hand books.”

Being affected by the Foot and Mouth outbreak in 2001, the Sedbergh booktown project was established to encourage visitors to the town to support local amenities.

In 2003 Sedbergh Book Town company was set up to “develop a community of businesses involved in selling, writing, publishing and designing books and other publications.” 

Walking round Sedbergh you quickly see that almost every business is involved with books to a some degree. This small town sure does have plenty of interesting and quirky places selling beautiful second-hand, vintage and antique books. Even shops that aren’t dedicated to books often have a little book section in which you can find yourself a little gem.

I stumbled upon a little shop called Patch and Fettle, which means ‘mend and make do’. As well as renovated furniture, costume jewellery and other curiosities the lady who owned the shop had an amazing collection of books. Overhearing us chat about typography and book-binding, she asked me if the name Tony Forster meant anything to me. I said it didn’t, but it turns out I really should have – having later Googled him and instantly recognising much of his work! Forster was a very well known and respected lettering designer and typographer from Manchester.

Tony sadly passed away in 2008. Having been a good friend of the shop owner, many books from his personal collection we’re on sale in the shop and down the road at Fairfield Mill.

By the end of the long weekend I’d spent over £100 on books. Some for their content, others for their craftsmanship, binding and typography, some for their illustrations and a couple for their comical limericks! I also picked up a first edition of the first ever commercial Pentagram book: Pentagram: The work of five designers – signed by the previous owner, Tony Forster.

Here’s some of the beauties that I picked up:

Pentagram: The work of five designers

Pentagram: The work of five designers (the first edition of the first ever commercial Pentagram publication, signed by it’s previous owner – Tony Forster).

Encyclopaedia of Type Faces

Encyclopaedia of Type Faces – W. Turner Berry / A. F. Johnson

Lots of Limericks

Lots of Limericks – W.H. Allen

Tillotsons Type Specimen Book

Tillotsons Type Specimen Book

And some photographs of other little gems that I didn’t get the names of:

Absynth Book cover Typography - alphabet


Angela Roche