York’s largest bookshop is coming – complete with gallery and event space
Good news for literary lovers in York – a building on Micklegate is set to once again become a bookshop.
Number 70 Micklegate – which had been Ken Spelman’s for more than seven decades before it closed last year – will be the new home of Lucius Books.
Lucius Books, at 144 Micklegate, have now received planning permission to start restoring the historic building. And it’s set to be the city’s biggest bookshop, spanning four floors, when it opens.
“We’re anticipating starting in the next month or two,” said owner of Lucius Books, James Hallgate.
Lucius Books specialise in rare books, particularly first editions and signed copies.
Founded in 1993 by James, the bookshop was found on Fossgate from 2003 before eventually moving to its current home on Micklegate in 2019.
James became a bookseller at 16 years old when he left school after being inspired by his dad’s love for book collecting. And has never looked back.
Moving into the former Spelman’s building is particularly special, as James bought his first rare books from the shop when he was a child. “The building as it stands will stay – we’re not looking to add or take off any of it,” he said.
“But it does need complete renovation, which is what we’re looking to do.”
The work will include installing new shelving and lighting, as well as heat pumps which are “a more economically and environmentally friendly way of heating a property, and the only thing we needed permission for”.
“We’ve always gone for the more light and open spaces than dark and cramped, which we’ll look to maintain.”
The cost of refurbishment will land somewhere between £400,000 and £700,000.
The bookshop will span all four stories of the building – with a plan to have an open gallery on the mezzanine floor, and the offices above will be home to rare books.
The gallery will feature original book illustrations, posters and outsider art.
“It really depends what collections and archives we come across,” said James. “Quite often there’s a story to be told within these objects, so it gives us the freedom to display such things.”
Also on display will be the history of the building. Parts of the building dates back to the 15th century, and it has operated as a bookshop since around 1890.
A glass panel will be inserted into the ground floor so that customers can view the cellar below, and a photo wall showing the legacy of the building will be on display.
The bookshop will also hold author events and aims to continue being part of the community.
An independent bookshop currently not in York has already shown interest in coming in to the building that Lucius Books will vacate, so watch this space!
James said, “We would actively encourage and help where we can to make this stay a bookshop.”
James also encourages anyone to get in touch if you’ve got a collection of books, private libraries or archives. “We are interested in buying that sort of material,” he said. “We’re going to need a lot of stock to keep this thing going.”
Currently still operating from 144 Micklegate, Lucius Books will eventually move completely in to 70 Micklegate – and will keep the same name. James hopes to be open this year but predicts that it will be more likely to be early 2024.
“We have every intention of being there for 50 years.
“We’re fully committed and it will be wonderful when it’s open.”
For more information about Lucius Books, visit their website here.