Jump to content

Hodges Figgis

Coordinates: 53°20′32″N 6°15′29″W / 53.34224°N 6.25815°W / 53.34224; -6.25815
From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

53°20′32″N 6°15′29″W / 53.34224°N 6.25815°W / 53.34224; -6.25815

Hodges Figgis
Founded10 Skinner's Row (now Christchurch Place), Dublin, 1768; 256 years ago (1768)
FounderJohn Milliken
HeadquartersDublin, Ireland
Number of locations
2 shops
Area served
ParentWaterstones Booksellers Ireland Ltd[1]

Hodges Figgis is a long-operating bookshop in central Dublin, Ireland. Founded in 1768,[2] it is probably the third-oldest functioning bookshop in the world,[2] after the Livraria Bertrand of Lisbon (1732) and Pennsylvania's Moravian Book Shop (1745). It was moved and expanded numerous times, and arrived at 56 Dawson Street in 1979, and gradually expanded to take its current form of four floors at 56-58 Dawson Street in 1992.[2] It is mentioned in James Joyce's modernist novel Ulysses, at the time of which it would have been situated at 104 Grafton Street,[3][2] and the novel Conversations with Friends by Sally Rooney, and in other writings.[2]

Since 2011, Hodges Figgis has been owned and operated by Waterstones, which in turn is owned by US investment management firm Elliott Investment Management and A&NN Capital Fund Management (an investment fund owned by Russian billionaire Alexander Mamut).[4][5][2][6]



18th century


The bookshop was opened in 1768 at 10 Skinner's Row, near Christ Church Cathedral, by a John Milliken, son of a local property owner. Milliken moved it to 32 Grafton Street in 1797.[2]

19th century


In 1819, the Milliken family moved the shop to 104 Grafton Street, where it operated for over a century. The shop's records note that in 1822, proprietor Richard Milliken stood with his 22 daughters on the shop's balcony for a royal visit by George IV. Following financial problems, the shop, run by Andrew Milliken since 1834, was taken over by Hodges and Smith, booksellers of College Green since the 1760s. Hodges and Smith also published books, notably including works of Irish interest. The business published for more than a hundred years thereafter.[2][7]

After the death of George Smith, a new operating partnership saw it become Hodges, Foster & Company. A further new partnership with an employee, Samuel Figgis, led to it becoming Hodges, Figgis & Company.

Hodges, Figgis & Company Limited was registered as a company in 1892, when Samuel Figgis was sole proprietor following a retirement. A son of Samuel Figgis, William Fernsley Figgis, led the next generation of the shop, alongside Samuel's successor as managing director, Thomas Brown.[2]

20th century


The impact of building works and wartime absence led to a financial restructuring in 1920, which saw the business surrender its premises and move to 20 Nassau Street. In 1945, it moved again, to 6 Dawson Street. Allen Figgis assumed control as owner and managing director in 1956, and expanded the shop into neighbouring premises at 7 Dawson Street. A paperback-specialised branch was opened in Suffolk Street, and publishing operations grew, with a notable release in 1968 of an Encyclopedia of Ireland. The shop also hosted major book launches, including that of a special edition of the Táin Bó Cúailnge with illustrations by Louis le Brocquy.[2] A bicentennial event was held in 1968, marked by the release of a 1,700-volume Celtic Studies catalogue at a reception attended by Archbishop and scholar George Simms, and Allen and Francis, and Neville, Figgis.[8]

In 1974, the shop was moved to St Stephen's Green. A warehouse was established in Donnybrook, and branches were opened in Donnybrook and Dún Laoghaire in the Dublin hinterland, and in Kilkenny and Cork. University bookshops were also added, at the University College Dublin (UCD) Belfield campus, and at University College Cork (UCC) and University College Galway (UCG).[2] By 1977, the business had achieved a turnover of IR£800,000, and a net profit of £30,000.[9]

In 1978, Allen Figgis sold the chain, then comprising the main shop at St Stephen's Green, and branches at Donnybrook, Dún Laoghaire and UCD, to Pentos, who owned the UK Dillons the Bookstore chain, for £132,000.[9] Hodges Figgis took over the lease of 56 Dawson Street, the former Browne and Nolan bookshop, in 1979, for university, library supplies and Celtic studies sales, and eventually schoolbooks also.[10] The UCD branch was closed, and Kilkenny and Cork outlets purchased.[10] By 1981, all operations had moved to Dawson Street.[2]

Approaching Hodges Figgis from Trinity College Dublin

Having moved to 57-58 Dawson Street, in 1992, the company re-acquired the lease on the 56 Dawson Street location. In 1995, Pentos went into receivership and its businesses, Dillons, including Hodges Figgis, and office stationery and furniture operations, were put up for sale. It was indicated that its Dawson Street and Dublin City University branches might be available to buy separately.[11] In the end, the bookselling business was sold to Thorn EMI, and in 1995, the Dawson Street shop closed for four hours to allow for the legal transfer of ownership, the only official disruption to trade in over 200 years.[2]

In 1996, Thorn EMI was demerged into separate entities (Thorn Electrical Industries and EMI).[12] Hodges Figgins and Waterstones were retained by EMI. In February 1998, EMI entered into a joint venture with Advent International to form HMV Media Group. The newly-formed entity acquired Hodges Figgis, the Waterstones chain of bookshops and the HMV chain of music shops.[13][14] Hodges Figgis & Company Limited was dissolved in July 1999 and the business was merged into the Waterstones chain.[15]

21st century


The Dawson Street shop briefly housed a coffee shop on the first floor, but this was removed during renovations in 2002, to expand the space available for book display and sale.[16]

In June 2011, HMV Group sold Waterstones (including Hodges Figgis) to A&NN Capital Fund Management (an investment fund owned by Russian Billionaire Alexander Mamut for GB£53 million.[2][17] In June 2018, US hedge fund Elliott Investment Management acquired a majority holding in Waterstones, with Mamut's company retaining a minority stake.[18][19][20][21][2][6][22]

In 2018, Hodges Figgis celebrated its 250th anniversary with the publication of an anthology of modern Irish writing with 250 contributors.[6]

Hodges Figgis continues to operate as part of the Waterstones group, although it operates its own loyalty stamp scheme instead of the Waterstones Plus card. In line with Waterstones operating strategy, it has considerable autonomy in buying and presentation.[6] It was the second-highest performing shop in the chain in 2015 and 2018,[23][24] only outstripped by the flagship Waterstones shop in Piccadilly, London.[2] As of 2018, the shop typically stocked about a million volumes, with about 70,000 titles, more than five times the range of a typical high street bookshop,[2] over three storeys and a basement. The shop specialises in Irish interest titles, and has a large academic section.[16][6][2]

Hodges Figgis also operates the part-time student bookshop in Dublin City University.[25] Waterstones operates 11 other shops in Ireland (in Ballymena, Belfast, Coleraine, Cork, Craigavon, Derry, Drogheda, Enniskillen, Lisburn and Newry), having closed its other Dublin shops (including one directly opposite Hodges Figgis) in 2011.[26][27]

Hodges Figgis has a long-running mail order business,[2] as well as an account sales (library and corporate) department.[16]

The sign outside Hodges Figgis

Hodges Figgis has been mentioned in The New York Times and The Wall Street Journal, as well as in popular works of fiction such as James Joyce's Ulysses, Sally Rooney's Conversations with Friends and John Boyne's The Heart's Invisible Furies, and in a poem by Paul Durcan.[28][2][29]

A volume of new writing by contemporary Irish writers, with an appendix on the shop's history, was published to commemorate Hodges Figgis's 250th anniversary in 2018,[6] with the proceeds going to charitable literacy works. It featured a wide variety of forms, by 250 authors, playwrights and poets,[6] over more than 700 pages, and cover artwork by Pauline Bewick; all contributors, and the editor, gave their efforts at no charge.[2]

See also



  1. ^ "Company Information". Hodges Figgis. Retrieved 29 December 2023.
  2. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m n o p q r s t u Falvey, Deirdre. "Hodges Figgis: A 250-year-old story of selling books". The Irish Times. Archived from the original on 15 June 2021. Retrieved 2 July 2021.
  3. ^ Joyce, James (1922). Ulysses. Project Gutenberg. Archived from the original on 29 June 2011. Retrieved 20 July 2011.
  4. ^ Sweney, Mark (20 May 2011). "HMV sells Waterstone's for £53m". The Guardian. London. Retrieved 31 May 2011.
  5. ^ Hoggan, Karen (26 April 2018). "Waterstones bookshop chain sold to Elliott Advisors". BBC News. Retrieved 28 April 2018.
  6. ^ a b c d e f g Carpenter, Caroline (23 July 2018). "Hodges Figgis". The Bookseller. Archived from the original on 5 February 2023. Retrieved 5 February 2023.
  7. ^ Evidence for Hodges, Figgis & Co. Ltd, as a Dublin publisher Archived 25 March 2023 at the Wayback Machine; Wikimedia Commons
  8. ^ "Hodges, Figgis bicentenary celebration". The Sunday Independent. 18 February 1968. p. 8.
  9. ^ a b "Business as usual at Hodges Figgis". Evening Press. 28 July 1978. p. 4.
  10. ^ a b "Hodges Figgis acquires Browne and Nolan lease". The Irish Independent. 4 August 1979. p. 17.
  11. ^ "Two Hodges Figgis shops are looking for buyers". The Irish Press. 2 March 1995. p. 10.
  12. ^ Vote solid for Thorn demerger, Independent.co.uk, 17 August 1996
  13. ^ Boehm, Erich (25 February 1998). "EMI spins off HMV record store chain". Variety. Retrieved 22 March 2015.
  14. ^ "WH Smith unloads book shop chain". BBC News. 25 February 1998. Retrieved 22 March 2015.
  15. ^ "Companies Registration Office". Retrieved 29 December 2023.
  16. ^ a b c "Hodges Figgis". Waterstones plc. Archived from the original on 28 June 2022. Retrieved 20 February 2023.
  17. ^ Sweney, Mark (20 May 2011). "HMV sells Waterstone's for £53m". The Guardian. London. Retrieved 31 May 2011.
  18. ^ Flood, Alison (26 April 2018). "Waterstones bookshops bought by hedge fund Elliott Advisors". The Guardian. ISSN 0261-3077. Archived from the original on 29 January 2023. Retrieved 20 February 2023.
  19. ^ Hoggan, Karen (26 April 2018). "Waterstones bookshop chain sold to Elliott Advisors". BBC News. Retrieved 28 April 2018.
  20. ^ Campbell, Lisa (6 June 2018). "Waterstones sale to Elliott completes". The Bookseller. Retrieved 30 May 2019.
  21. ^ Hoggan, Karen (26 April 2018). "Waterstones bookshop chain sold to Elliott Advisors". BBC News. Retrieved 28 April 2018.
  22. ^ "Waterstones buys Foyles bookshops in bid to fight back against Amazon". The Independent. 7 September 2018. Archived from the original on 9 November 2020. Retrieved 30 March 2020.
  23. ^ "Hodges & Figgis leads Waterstones recovery". independent. Archived from the original on 16 October 2019. Retrieved 30 March 2020.
  24. ^ Deegan, Gordon. "Hodges Figgis store in Dublin second-best performer in Waterstones group". The Irish Times. Archived from the original on 5 November 2019. Retrieved 30 March 2020.
  25. ^ "Information – Bookshop". Dublin City University. 8 December 2013. Archived from the original on 2 February 2023. Retrieved 23 February 2022. Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday: 9:00am-17:00pm [sic] / Monday and Friday: Closed
  26. ^ Lynch, Suzanne. "Waterstone's to close two Dublin stores". The Irish Times. Archived from the original on 12 May 2017. Retrieved 30 March 2020.
  27. ^ "Bookshops in the UK and Europe". Waterstones. Retrieved 29 December 2023.
  28. ^ Joyce, James (1922). Ulysses. Project Gutenberg. Archived from the original on 29 June 2011. Retrieved 20 July 2011.
  29. ^ Marcus, J. S. (31 May 2012). "Literature's Happy Hunting Ground: Dublin Trades the Celtic Tiger for the Celtic Bookworm, Relaunching the City as a Literary Capital". The Wall Street Journal. Archived from the original on 25 March 2023. Retrieved 3 August 2017.