Home to the largest secondhand bookstore in the world, Hay-on-Wye is more than just a little town on the border between England and Wales, it’s book heaven on Earth.
The history of Hay-on-Wye as the “town of books” began on Fools’ Day of 1977, when during a bold publicity stunt, bibliophile Richard Booth announced the independence of Hay-on-Wye as a kingdom of books, with him as the monarch. Ambassadors were sent to the International Court of Justice, in Hague, and a rowing gunboat started patrolling on the river Wye. Since then, he managed to establish a healthy tourism industry based on books, and thousands of visitors come to Hay-on-Wye every year, to look for whatever books they need.
Before Booth’s daring scheme, Hay-on-Wye was a slowly dying town of under 2,000 people, with no real economy or notable local businesses. The King of Hay-on-Wye opened his first bookstore in 1961, and in few-years-time he filled every available building with books, including the old workhouse, a chapel and even Hay Castle.
Hay-on-Wye has an annual turnover of over 1 million books, and unlike other book dealers, Richard Booth doesn’t focus on any one topic. He buys any type of books in the belief that every book is valuable and someone in the world wants it. Bibliophiles from all over the world come to Hay on-Wye because of the large number of books found here and the low prices.
Once a dying little town, Hay-on-Wye is now booming tourist town, with ten percent of its population working in the book business, and local businesses benefiting from the waves of tourists coming here in search of reading material.