Blackwell’s has kicked off celebrations for its 140th anniversary by choosing 140 books that reflect its mission to “change lives through reading”, with one title for each year since 1879.
The list has been created by Blackwell’s booksellers, publishers, authors and friends.
Outgoing sales and marketing director Dean Drew said: “It's an all year celebration and it will evolve over the year but the main thrust of it is 140 books for 140 years so it's quite an interesting project. It's not necessarily a book published in that year but it's a book for which that year is very important.”
The list begins in 1879 marking the birth of scientist Albert Einstein with Einstein: His Life and Universe by Walter Isaacson (S&S UK), reaches its midway point with The Second Sex by Simone de Beauvoir (Vintage) in 1949 and ends with 2018’s Why I'm No Longer Talking to White People About Race by Reni Eddo-Lodge (Bloomsbury). The full listing is available here.
Founder Benjamin Henry Blackwell opened the Broad Street store in Oxford in 1879 with the company, which now boasts 30 shops, continuously trading from there ever since. The firm’s history spans two world wars, three monarchs and the Moon landings; meanwhile, Allen Lane is said to have had the idea for Penguin Books under an apple tree on the lawn at Benjamin’s son Sir Basil Blackwell’s home in 1934.
Blackwell’s c.e.o. David Prescott said: “We started on New Year's Day 1879 and it seemed like a good idea for a celebration. A shared belief that a good book can send a person on their path through life is central to the reason why everyone at Blackwell’s goes to work every day.
“Putting our mission to change lives through reading at the centre of the 140th birthday celebrations makes perfect sense to us, and this amazing list has been enthusiastically embraced by our publisher and author partners, who we thank for their support.”
The 140 books will be the subject of a major promotion running until the end of July, with support from authors and all the major publishers.
The campaign, featuring a new 140th logo, will be supported by Point of Sale, till screens, merchandise, a brochure, social content and a new blog linked to Blackwells.co.uk that will act as the focal point for co-ordinated brand-building social media activity, both centrally and from individual shops’ feeds. As well as a limited edition gift card design the campaign will develop with more marketing and promotional support to be added each month including podcasts, customer nominations, competitions and summer events.
The celebration comes as Blackwell’s looks to build its non-academic customer base after selling more trade books than academic in the past year.