New chapter for UK bookselling as Libreria opens

Libreria, a new book shop, printing press, and interdisciplinary community space, will open at 65 Hanbury Street, London, this week (Thursday 25 February, 2016), merging state of the art design and technology with a fresh enthusiasm for physical bookselling.

Libreria, 65 Hanbury Street, London. Credit: Iwan Baan.

From Rohan Silva and Sam Aldenton, the founders of Second Home, the iconic East London space for entrepreneurs and creative businesses, Libreria blends the best of the digital and analogue worlds. The space will operate a no-phone policy, designed to create a sanctuary away from the bombardment of modern life, while at the same time using custom-made software to manage the store itself, developed in collaboration with a digital agency specialising in publishing. 

“Libreria has been years in the making – we believe in the value of books and literature and have wanted to do this for a long time. Across industries we are seeing a return to physical, material things and a fresh appreciation of craftsmanship. These things are not being killed by the digital; they are being given new life. We believe there’s space in London and beyond for a reimagining of the bookshop, and it’s the perfect time in Second Home’s journey for us to augment who we are and what we do.
“One of the joys of physical book buying is having an experience unimpaired by algorithmic recommendation – encountering works you might never otherwise see. When curated well, book shops are the best place to encounter new ideas and a lot of thought has gone into this.” - Rohan Silva, co-founder of Second Home

Designed by the award-winning Spanish architectural practice Selgas Cano, the space draws inspiration from Jorge Borges’ short story The Library of Babel, with a thoughtful aesthetic and carefully curated shelves. The name “Libreria”, which means “book shop” in Spanish and Italian, is a nod to its cosmopolitan outlook. 

“We’re building a vibrant, interdisciplinary community that reimagines what you can do with and around books. We’ve reached a cultural tipping point, I think, where people are becoming aware of the costs of being constantly digitally connected - and instead crave experiences that are tangible, human, immersive. At Libreria we’re bringing together the widest possible range of people, ideas, arts, crafts and disciplines - in a warm, welcoming atmosphere that delights the senses and inspires the mind.” - Sally Davies, Director of Libreria
“Libreria's design emphasises both craftsmanship and the delight of discovery. The long flowing lines of the shelves - cut by hand from unfinished wood, overseen by artists from the Slade School of Fine Art - seem to mirror one another, and are in turn reflected in the mirrors of the interior. They allow the categories to run horizontally and be layered - so a book of poetry might be displayed right above one on evolutionary psychology, expanding your chance encounters while browsing.
“Niches are cut into the shelves where you can curl up with a book, adding an element of the cozy to the overall expansiveness of the design, and all the lamps and furnishings have been handpicked by our architects. They specialise in making beautiful spaces that are also light-filled and lively, and they've done an exceptional job with Libreria." - Sam Aldenton, co-founder of Second Home

Hosting an eclectic array of events all year round, Libreria’s emphasis will be on those that put books into creative conversations in a surprising way – from in-depth seminars and workshops, to gigs and performances. There will even be occasions for 24 hour opening, responding to demand as London becomes an increasingly 24 hour city.

With physical book sales in resurgence, the shop will reinvigorate the local area’s publishing traditions, with its own printing press installed for bespoke runs of limited edition titles as well as masterclasses on the art of printing.

Innovation will also feed into the selection and classification of titles throughout the new offerings, with shelves designed to encourage discovery, grouping titles around themes that mirror the kinds of conversations people have, from timeless preoccupations (“family” and “the sea and the sky”) to the major issues of the moment (“terror” and “refugees”).

Meanwhile, the shop will focus on offering a diversity of voices, helping unearth fresh and underrepresented perspectives in literature. Guest curators will select shelves of their favourite titles - with award-winning writer Jeanette Winterson, Wired editor David Rowan, editor of the New York Review of Books Classics Edwin Frank, sculptor Richard Wentworth, former director of Liberty Shami Chakrabarti, and acclaimed children’s author Kate Rundell, the first.

Upcoming events

The Imbibliotheque - 25 February, 2016

Swig and sniff your way through 20th-century fiction as Lizzie Ostrom (author of Perfume: A Century of Scents) and Henry Jeffreys (drinks writer for The Guardian) look at how - and why - novelists write about booze and smell. We’ll jump from Patrick Hamilton to Patricia Highsmith, from modernism to melodrama, while the drinks are poured and the scents passed around.

Andrew Solomon and Marion Coutts - 2 March

Andrew Solomon, acclaimed lecturer and author of the Wellcome Book Prize-winning Far From the Tree and the National Book Award-winning Noonday Demon, joins Marion Coutts, the artist and author of Wellcome Book Prize-winning The Iceberg, to discuss memorialising death, grief and family. Book tickets: – coming soon

Galley Beggar Press Short Story Prize - 10 March

An evening of readings and discussion from shortlisted writers for the Galley Beggar Press Short Story Prize, the independent press known for publishing ambitious, original literary work - most famously, Eimear McBride's A Girl Is A Half-formed Thing (now co-published with Faber). Book tickets: – coming soon

The Shorts – 17 March

An evening of evocative, humorous, intriguing monologues performed by live actors in Libreria – as well performances inside a portable caravan positioned outside that seats an intimate audience of eight people at a time. Robin Linde Productions performs a collection of the work that was created for Bold Tendencies '15, The Caravan Shorts at Vault Festival as well as MERGE Festival in collaboration with Tate Modern. Book tickets: – coming soon

Technology and the mind - 22 March

Kate Unsworth, founder and CEO of wearable technology company Vinaya, along with a panel of neuroscience experts, leads a workshop on the effects of modern technology addiction and finding a better digital balance. What happens in our brain when we practice mindfulness? What benefits would we experience if we practiced more mindful digital habits? Book tickets: – coming soon

Eating with the eyes - 20 April

An evening with Harry Pearce, the renowned partner of award-winning design agency Pentagram whose clients include Shakespeare’s Globe, Boots and Saks Fifth Avenue, on the role that chance and accidental encounters play in his life, work and design process. Book tickets: – coming soon

Collaboration with The Idler – from March

A special event series co-produced with The Idler, featuring:

Dr Matthew Green, author and historian, on the history of London’s coffee-houses and how their “bitter Mohammedan gruel” (as it was known in some quarters) transformed the face of the city

Tom Hodgkinson, editor of The Idler, in a practical and philosophical symposium on How To Be Idle, tracing the history of idleness from Aristotle and the ancient Chinese philosophers to attacks on it from the architects of the Reformation and then the Industrial Revolution

Melanie Windridge, physicist, lecturer and writer, on the science of the Northern lights

David Lindo, the Urban Birder, on London wildlife

Clare Pollard, poet and playwright, in a poetry masterclass

The Idler’s calligraphy workshop

Idler Live: a series of three fifteen-minute TED-style talks to bring the an Idler book to life - first, featuring Mark Vernon on Philosophy, Sandy Burnett on Classical Music, and Tim Lott on Mindfulness

For further information, contact Christopher Bone at FMcM Associates