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Stanfords bookshop in London
Every journey takes shape from our beginning to fantasize looking at a great map of the world, hanging in our bedroom or in our living room. For a globetrotter like me, inspiration is a fundamental element. Luckily there is a place that for any traveller is a bit like the Country of toys: I’m talking about Stanfords, the most equipped travel library worldwide. It’s a true “cave of wonders” located in the London neighbourhood of Covent Garden.




Edward Stanford, founder of the bookstore of the same name, rose to prominence during the Victorian era. A period marked by technological innovation, social upheaval, literary excellence and the growing exploration of the world. So, in 1853, thanks to a skilful entrepreneurial initiative, Stanford expanded its store to 7 and 8 of Charing Cross road. At the same time, he acquired a couple of premises at Trinity Place to convert them into a printing house and in doing so became the sole owner. This move consolidated Stanford as the largest and indeed the sole producer and and seller of maps in London. This at a time when British colonialism, the rise of the railways and the continued popularity of the Grand Tour, increased the demand for high-quality cartographic material which from that moment it was invented became easily accessible.


In 1877, about twenty-four years after its foundation, the company enjoyed such success that it managed to acquire the famous Staunton & Son. What the Londoners called the “Official Stationery of the Queen”. In 1885, at the age of 58, Stanford retired and sold the company to his son, Edward Stanford II, who became head of sales three years earlier. Thanks to the newly formed collaboration with Ordnance Survey Maps, young Stanford became their sole agent in England and Wales. In 1887 he published the London Atlas of Universal Geography dedicated to Queen Victoria on the occasion of her Royal Jubilee. However, it took a few years before Edward Stanford II received his royal mandate as the Queen’s cartographer in 1893. At the turn of the century, Stanford II made the decision to combine the retail, printing and cartographic activities of the company under the same roof. In 1901, the doors of the number 12 in Long Acre, in the heart of Covent Garden, opened to receive important personalities of the time such as Florence Nightingale, Frederick Lugard, John Murray, Ernest Shackleton and Francis Younghusband.
Stanfords bookshop in London

the interior of the Stanfords library

books at Stanfords bookshop in London

the globe with some books for sale from Stanfords


With the ascension to the throne of Edward VII in 1902, Stanford retained his royal function as the king’s cartographer and this only confirmed the company’s role in popular and cartographic culture. In the novel The Hound of the Baskervilles, Detective Sherlock Holmes asks Dr Watson “to go to Stanford”to get him a map of Dartmoor.


With the outbreak of war in 1914 Stanford became a publisher for the War Office, providing the ministry with maps essential to understand the disposition of troops in the European chessboard. After the end of the war, in 1922 the company produced the world’s smallest maps for a series of atlases for Queen Mary’s famous dollhouse in Windsor. In 1926 he created the first Daily Mail Motor Road Map that would remain in print for the next thirty years. He also provided maps for the solo flight of the adventurer Amy Johnson from England to Australia in 1930.
postcards in the Stanfords bookshop

postcards for sale from Stanfords

inside of Stanfords bookshop

balloons inside of Stanfords


While the prospect of a second war loomed in Europe, in 1939 Prime Minister Neville Chamberlain commissioned a map from Stanford to show Hitler’s growing power in Germany. Given its central location and perhaps its tactical importance as a creator and map provider for the War Office, it was only a matter of time before the building suffered a blow. On the night of April 15, 1941, in one of the largest raids in the capital, Stanford was hit by an incendiary bomb that destroyed almost entirely the last two floors of the building.


From the 1950s, Stanfords remained at the centre of popular culture as its high-quality maps were a key tool for planning any type of travel. Its political importance was rekindled in 1982, during the Falklands conflict, when the British army was forced to rely significantly on Stanfords maps. Military cartography officially did not present fundamental details. Many believed that Argentine diplomats, during the months leading up to the conflict, had deliberately bought all the maps of the Falklands, so as to beat the British on the strategic plane. In 1997 Stanfords opened its first office outside London on Corn Street in Bristol, where it is still located today, which also included a corporate mapping service.
books within the Stanfords bookshop

books for sale from Stanfords

maps inside Stanfords in London

maps for sale from Stanfords


In early 2019, the bookstore moved from the historic number 12 in Long Acre to number 7 in the nearby Mercer Walk. Undoubtedly a new start due to the need to meet the high rental costs of Covent Garden and the need to face up to the competition of the digital market. Inside you will find everything: in addition to a wide assortment of travel guides and related maps,you will also find a decent amount of merchandise, gift ideas but also diaries, notebooks, shelves full of stories for children and travel fiction books for adults. In short, there is something for everyone. Every time I go there, I like to get lost among the various shelves to browse and take inspiration. Last time I came in with the idea of just taking a guide on the Cotswolds but in the end, I came out with three more books in hand! My favourite area of the entire library is the one dedicated to the globe! You can find all kinds and sizes: from the old hand-painted ones to the modern ones, that light up showing you the naval routes and the ocean currents. At the home of a traveller certainly cannot miss such an object. Its beauty could really convince you to organize a trip around the world to discover its infinite beauty. The department of wall maps is very well stocked: it passes with ease from the historical map of the districts of London to that of the whole world. The staff is well prepared and attentive to your every request and will advise you what is best! The library also has an online shop which also makes international shipments. What are you waiting for? Standfords is waiting for you!


ADDRESS: 7 Mercer Walk, Covent Garden, London WC2H 9FA

HOW TO GET THERE: the library is easily accessible, walking a few minutes, from the Covent Garden subway station, the blue line of the Piccadilly line.

OPENING HOURS: Mon-Sat 9-18 Sunday 10-18 (coronavirus cause at the moment the library is closed but you can buy in the online shop)

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