London’s Heywood Hill is the secret behind the best curated libraries

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While many are content to read via electronic device, the toniest of homes are not complete without a vast library of rare tomes. Far be it for the rich to order their varied literary offerings via Amazon like complete savages. Any one-percenter in the know curates their library from London’s Heywood Hill, a small store that will go to every length to help one procure the most esoteric, obscure and varied reading material. With clients from 60 countries around the globe, the shop knows a little something about reading its clientele.

The New York Times reports on the great lengths the shop staff will go to in order to honor a customer’s request. The store’s manager, Nicky Dunne, explains she has provided at least 3000 books to the Bulgari Hotel in London for guest rooms as well supplied at least one cruise ship and a fleet of private jets with a comprehensive, customized reading collection.

 Peregrine Cavendish, the current 12th Duke of Devonshire
Peregrine Cavendish, the current 12th Duke of Devonshire

Dunne explains, ‘‘It’s not that we’re selling by the yard. But if they’re interested in a subject’’ — 19th-century French topiary, Brutalist architecture, salmon husbandry or something more obscure — ‘‘and haven’t properly explored books on that subject, then they come to us.’’ Heywood Hill is currently owned by her father-in-law, the 12th Duke of Devonshire. By the way, the estate of the Duke’s late mother, Deborah Cavendish, is currently up for auction. 

This royal attention to detail comes at a hefty price; amassing a great library can cost upwards of six figures depending on the amount and type of book desired. The shop has also created a sort of “Book-of-the-month-club” called “A Year in Books” in which readers get a book a month for a year — suited to their interests — for a set fee of about $515 for hardcovers.

For those with champagne taste but a beer budget, Heywood Hill provides “book boxes” of five to 10 volumes arranged by theme.

However the shop’s typical customer — “Dare I say– not tourists,” explains Dunne — is “well-turned out, well-read, well-spoken” and prefers to visit the store in person to get customized recommendations. As Ralph Waldo Emerson said, “If we encounter a man of rare intellect, we should ask him what books he reads.”