Why build your own library when a little London bookshop has the expertise to curate one for you?

Portrait of Tammy Strobel
Why build your own library when a little London bookshop has the expertise to curate one for you?   
My Reading Room

Nicky Dunne is juggling five projects at the moment. He is putting together a large collection of books on the history of exploration, 40 special books for a 40th birthday, a selection of books for a fleet of private jets, a gentleman’s library for a rural England residence, and a vacation-reading library for an upstate New York home. The library-building and rare-books expert is chairman of Heywood Hill, a literary bookshop in Mayfair, London, that has helped develop libraries for customers since it opened in 1936. 

Inspired both by loyal customers who share a passion for reading and collecting, and also by a particular Ireland-and-Irish-literature-only library at Lismore Castle, Dunne would love for Heywood Hill to be the world leader in library curation in the digital age. A great deal of business is conducted over the phone or electronically – while the store has around 6,000 customers, a third of them hail from the United States, and there are plenty of clients from Singapore, Hong Kong and other parts of Asia. 

Before the book hunting commences, Dunne’s team of staff get to know clients’ tastes intimately, and discuss location, timeline and budget. Projects take between three and six months to complete, and can cost up to six figures depending on the size of the library. Notably, they don’t charge a fee for curating, only for the cost of the books, so they identify serious customers by asking for a 20 per cent deposit up front. 

Heywood Hill has a bookseller-at- large based in Hong Kong to cater to the Asian customer base, but closer to home, Singapore retailer Booksactually is also able to be of service if you’d like to start building an impressive library. It once curated an eclectic 450-title collection for a local branch of Citigold Select, for a fee of $2,000. 

Aware that high net worth individuals may not always have the time to enjoy their bespoke libraries, owner Kenny Leck remains optimistic that those who live or work in the vicinity might get to reap its benefits.

“I am all for spreading the love of reading and making books readily available, instead of having them packed in boxes at the warehouse,” he says. 

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