Inside 84

The first floor was home to Mark Cohen and the more valuable stock, the second floor was given over to Freemasonry and The Occult and was presided over by the extremely knowledgeable George Plummer (click here to see details of the cover of Catalogue No. 54 from 1951). The third floor contained 'bindings', those volumes with beautifully crafted gilt and leather exteriors. Finally on the fourth floor locked away and hidden from view were thousands of 'spare parts' for rare and out of print titles. Title pages, frontispieces, coloured plates could be used to repair almost any book that was missing a page or two! This work was generally carried out in the basement. The firm also operated a mail order service and issued catalogues (click here to see details of the cover and contents of an early issue) on a regular basis, click here to see a copy of a receipted invoice, signed by Frank Doel, for a mail order sale in 1936.

The ground floor was the retail area where customers could browse the comprehensive stock that the shop had amassed. Both Ben Marks and Frank Doel were based here along with George Martin and Pat Hynes. One of the unusual features was the door to the basement which was disguised as a bookcase! Another interesting feature was a prominently displayed sign which read "Masonic Books - Please Ask", for some reason the firm were unable to display this type of stock.


This picture, taken in 1970, shows Pat Hynes half way up a ladder watched by Mark Cohen, seated.

The 'false' bookcase door can be seen clearly to the left of Pat Hynes.

Frank's daughter Sheila has fond memories of this part of the shop;

"I remember the false bookcase very well - it concealed a flight of stairs down to the basement, where I spent many happy Saturday mornings watching books being mended or furbished (refurbishing is when you do this a second time). The shop was indeed nothing like the film set. It was lined with bookcases from floor to ceiling (I cannot remember it ever being decorated), with a large table in the middle displaying prints. At the back were two small desks, one for Mr. Marks and one for my father; Mr. Cohen worked upstairs in a large room where the most expensive books and those with fine bindings were displayed."

Mark Cohen, at his desk on the first floor, pen in one hand pipe in the other!

Note the pile of papers and manuscripts to his left, you will see near the top, face down, a copy of Helene Hanff's book. Judging from its size I would guess that its a proof or review copy (See enlargement below).

 

Enlargement, inverted, of section from photograph above.

Marks & Co enjoyed the patronage of many well known individuals including; Michael Foot former Leader of the Labour party; Actors Charlie Chaplin, David Niven and Jack Hawkins; The writer George Bernard Shaw; Field Marshal Lord Alanbrooke; Sigmund Freud; occultist Aleister Crowley and the current Duke of Wellington.


Most of these 'preferred' customers would have had access to Cohen's first floor domain.

Mark Cohen, surveys the stock on the first floor. Within a few months the shop would be closed and the remaining books sold at auction.