Early Offices

Thomas Nelson’s bookshop once sat in a half-timbered storefront at 7 West Bow in Edinburgh, one of many rickety buildings rising precariously from the Z-shaped street like upside-down pyramids. Upper floors jutted out from lower ones as chins from a neck, so close at the top that “the two sides of the street were in some cases placed in such a state of apposition as to admit of the inhabitants interchanging the pleasures of tea drinking without the trouble of leaving their respective abodes.”

About 50 miles east, at 68 Wilson Street in Glasgow, William Collins’s bookshop sat sandwiched between shops selling grain, ham, butter, and cheese. His printing press was just four blocks away at 28 Candleriggs Court, “where Glasgow’s candlemakers had once gone through the riggs (or cornfields) to boil and purify their tallow.”

James and John Harper opened their first print shop in a “dingy little attic” on the corner of Dover and Front streets in New York, a block away from the East River. These teetotalers had set up business in the Fourth Ward, an area then home to many craftsmen and merchants. The neighborhood soon became infamous for its “triple distinction of filth, poverty, and vice,” not to mention the Hole-in-the-Wall, the oldest tavern in the city.

Today HarperCollins has offices in 18 countries around the world, with its global headquarters at 195 Broadway in New York City, just a few blocks from where the Harper brothers established their very first offices.