Hodges Figgis fulfils a bookshop lover’s every desire, from the iconic Victorian facade to the four levels of floor to ceiling bookshelves. Having officially opened in 1768, Hodges Figgis celebrates its 250th birthday this year, making it Ireland’s oldest bookshop. First situated on Skinner’s Row (somewhere near present day Christchurch), it was at one point on Nassau street, before eventually finding a new home on Dawson Street and has been there since. Though the shop is now owned by the company Waterstones, it retains its iconic name, as famously mentioned in James Joyce’s Ulysses.
Hodges Figgis emanates historical pride. The shop boasts the largest stock of books relating to Ireland in the country. The portraits of Irish literary greats, from Yeats to Wilde, that can be seen along the staircase, are just another example of how Hodges Figgis honours the illustrious writers in Ireland’s history.
Their extensive Academic floor is a godsend for students, even if their prices are not. It’s a struggle to find a book priced under twelve euro. It may be the only flaw of the shop, that its beautiful and extensive collection of books are, understandably, not always suitably priced for someone on a tight budget.
The speciality tables that are scattered about every floor of the shop often add some humour to the personality. One table of classic horror books sits beneath a sign that read, “Just when you thought it was safe to go back to the Bookstore…” Another table of cook books features a suitable Oscar Wilde quote, “After a good dinner one can forgive anybody, even one’s own relations.” A table of literature of the 1916 Rising sits with sign that reads, “Founding Fathers or Rowdy Rebels?” These tables are testament to the attention to detail that Hodges Figgis staff pay to their shop, they hope that visitors will take every opportunity to engage with the literature and interact with the shop.
The children’s section is a special gem. Always fantastically decorated, exploding with colour, it demonstrates the importance that Hodges Figgis places on encouraging children to read. The staff are constantly organising book clubs and events specifically for children, in the hope that they’ll catch the reading bug young. Most recently, they organised a Harry Potter Celebration Day for children. As well as this, the shop usually hosts Children’s Storytime on Saturday mornings at 11.30am.
Hodges Figgis host both a teen and adult monthly book club. The adult book club is set to meet next on Thursday 29th of March at 6pm to discuss the book Mothering Sunday by Graham Swift. For more information about both book clubs, contact them here.
Aside from books, Hodges Figgis has a wonderful gift section that features a host of stationary, cards and whimsical present ideas, such as a cardboard iPhone projector that my sister recently picked up with my brother in mind.
All these elements come together to create the shop’s atmosphere. It’s serene, but never stuffy. The staff of Hodges Figgis have a clear shared adoration of literature, you can ask them anything and they are always more than willing to share their knowledge or opinion. As you peruse the shop, you’ll come across themed tables of recommendations with witty titles. Another example of the wonderful staff that contribute to the shop’s wonderful personality. Though Hodges Figgis is an enormous shop, it never loses the intimate and homely feeling of a small bookshop to cold corporatism. Every customer is cared for, no book enthusiast’s desires are left uncatered for.
For me, Christmas would be incomplete without the obligatory trip to Hodges Figgis, shuffling in from a freezing Dawson Street into the immense warmth of the place. Rarely would a holiday or birthday pass without the giving of something bought from this shop. Visits as a child, to this colossal treasure trove of books, were always the highlight of any day in Dublin. Just as the shop holds a sacred place in Irish history, it has also cemented itself firmly in the hearts of all Irish book lovers.