Tributes have been paid to Gay’s The Word bookshop co-founder Jonathan Cutbill, who has passed away aged 82 after a period of ill health.
Cutbill started the pioneering Bloomsbury bookshop in 1979 with Peter Dorey and Ernest Hole. He carried on playing an active part as a director and volunteer, initially looking after financial planning, creating an early computerized stock control system and running the second-hand and antiquarian department. He also built up a huge collection of LGBT-related literature.
Gay’s The Word manager Jim MacSweeney told The Bookseller: “For over 20 years he bought a copy of every LGBT book that the bookshop stocked adding them to his already extensive library.
“When I joined the bookshop in 1989 Jonathan was hugely supportive and I often turned to him for advice on difficult issues or simply to chat and perhaps glean some of his enormous knowledge of gay literature. He was outspoken and had strong views on many issues, not suffering fools gladly. A great activist, I had enormous respect for him.”
In April 1984, the shop was subjected to a raid by customs officials and stock worth thousands of pounds was seized, including a book about the Aids epidemic and work by Tennessee Williams and Gore Vidal. Cutbill was among nine people conspiring to import and sell indecent or obscene material.
Writing of that time, Cutbill said: "I was always aware that we might eventually have serious customs problems. I saw absolutely no point in fighting it on individual seizure notices because what was wrong was the attitude of customs and the fact that they were ignorant of books, UK publishing and gays. The issue was really political and not one of indecency or obscenity."
A campaign was set up in the bookshop’s defence, supported by The Bookseller, garnering extensive media coverage and questions in the House of Commons, before charges were finally dropped.
Cutbill retired from bookselling in 1993 and moved to Shropshire.