Dudfield's Bookshop, Burnie, 1895 (AOT, PH30/1/1061)

No doubt books were traded from the time of settlement but the first bookseller proper seems to have been JP Deane, opening in Hobart in 1822, both as a bookshop and a circulating library, holding 2500 volumes. Bookselling gained pace and, as the population grew, a couple of shops opened in both Hobart and Launceston in the 1830s and 1840s. In 1846 James Walch arrived in Hobart and began selling books and stationery. AW Birchall and Sons, which describes itself as the oldest bookshop in Australia, began in 1844. AW Birchall moved from Hobart to run the Launceston shop for Walch and eventually bought them out in 1893. Birchalls still flourishes. Some interesting publishing took place in Tasmania in the nineteenth century and the pirating of Dickens' Pickwick Papers meant that printer, publisher and bookseller were one and the same.

The twentieth century saw reading reach its peak before the days of television, and the number of shops grew to include important booksellers like Mary Fisher in Launceston and Fullers Bookshop (founded by William Fuller in about 1923, continued by Cedric Pearce) in Hobart. In 1922 Walch's sold their bookselling side and OBM (Oldham, Beddome and Meredith) began business. Just as Birchalls was a meeting place while shopping in Launceston, OBM Book Arcade in Hobart was the centre of town for a while. Later in the century mainland-owned chain bookshops moved in and OBM became the premises for Angus and Robertson, which also run shops in Eastlands, Launceston, Devonport and Burnie.

Further reading: KF Engel, Bookselling in Australia, Canberra, 1986.

Clive Tilsley