sb-024-bigSedbergh is England’s official book town: apparently the locals noticed that the title was unclaimed and up and grabbed it. They now claim eight bookshops in what is a tiny village. The biggest, Westwood Books moved to Sedbergh from Hay-on-Wye which I suspect most people would have assumed was England’s book town, but of course it’s in Wales! I wonder if the title brings any large benefits? I dare say it’s worth it, because making the claim cannot cost them much. Part of the job of being a book town appears to be hosting a book festival. One assumes that this brings many visitors to the town which is normally small, though inflated for half the year with four or five hundred pupils from the eponymous public school. Sedbergh Book Town’s own website starts with this information “Book towns were the brain‑child of book dealer and self-styled ‘King’ of Hay‑on‑Wye, Richard Booth. In 1961 Hay became the first ever book town, and there are now well over twenty of them around the world.”

UnknownFrance’s book town is Montolieu, just north of Carcassonne. It has 15 bookshops, houses several book-arts artisans and boasts a nice little museum with antique printing equipment on display. It is apparently not a member of The International Organization of Book Towns, which may be explained by its brochure in which it characterizes itself as Village du livre.

And here comes an Observer story about a threat to the Scottish book town, Wigtown in Galloway. I am not sure what effect constructing a wind farm in the hills overlooking the town would have on people’s book habits — maybe the wind would rip the pages out as they were reading them — but you can always count on (and I guess sympathize with) nimby-ism.

See also Book Towns.