On the 19th August 1985 Venetia Vyvyan walked through the door of Heywood Hill, number 10 Curzon Street, as a confident graduate who thought that she knew rather a lot about books.  By the end of the day she realised her education had really only just begun.

More than thirty years later she is still learning, thrilled by each day’s discoveries and forever grateful to John Saumarez Smith, Annie Cleghorn and David Bacon who were brave enough to employ her all those decades ago.  They taught the value of humour, courtesy and consummate customer service and that is what Venetia Vyvyan Ltd stands for, all those years on.

In 2016, Venetia was approached by an old friend, Isla Dawes, who was looking to sell her group of bookshops before moving out of London to go north to Derbyshire.  She needed little persuading to grasp this opportunity to own her own bricks and mortar bookshop and fell in love with the bookshop in Barnes – and with Barnes itself (a little piece of country in London). For more information on the Barnes Bookshop please visit the website.

Fresh challenges continue to appeal, and so in 2020 Venetia and the Barnes
Bookshop joined forces with St Mary’s Church, Barnes and Anne Mullins to set up the Barnes BookFest.  Now in its third year, the festival is an incredible weekend of talks by best-selling writers and exciting new authors.  For more information, please visit the festival’s website www.barnesbookfest.org.

Book Recommendations

We draw on over thirty years of accumulated bookselling knowledge to recommend titles.  So whether you want a couple of books to take away on holiday or a beautifully wrapped selection for a twenty first birthday we are here to help. We can also wrap them for you.

Book Buying

We can supply any book and send it to you with the minimum of fuss choosing the most efficient and cost effective way available.
Just ask via email vv@venetiavyvyan.com or telephone +44 (0)20 8772 1427.

Standing Orders

Favourite authors, first editions, series – it is irritating when you miss a volume. Just let us know what authors you admire or editions you collect and we will make sure that you have the full set. We can also make sure that family and friends receive their favourite authors too so do let us know and we can send them off wrapped with your message inside the parcel – wherever it needs to go.

Book Searches

“It is out of print I’m afraid” need not be the end of the story. A second hand copy is available only for the asking. If we do not have it in stock then we have a network of wonderful, fussy booksellers to help find it for you. Just ask.
An old or antiquarian edition of a favourite book also makes a special anniversary or Christening present. We can give you suggestions within your price bracket, find them and send them off for you.


Wedding lists, Christening presents, Christmas wish lists, birthdays and beginning of term presents – all and more are a telephone call or email away. We can keep a record of what has been sent (and to whom) and make sure that an anniversary is never left unmarked.
So whether it is your favourite book in a beautiful edition that you wish to give to the next generation or a selection of the latest books on gardening and interior decoration to celebrate moving house we can help. And once you have decided what to give, we can wrap them, enclose a card and send them off with the minimum of fuss and bother.

Wrapping Services

Presents look more special for the care taken in making them look mysterious and inviting. We have a selection of wrapping papers and ribbon to make them just that. Please just ask and a book will be wrapped and a card with your message enclosed. Especially at hectic times of year (Christmas springs to mind) it can take a load off your shoulders to know that the presents you have chosen are ready to put under the tree.

Seasonal Booklists

There are almost too many books published each year and there is little enough time to choose what you want. We seek to make the decisions of what to read (and what to give) much simpler and much more enjoyable. A few times a year we produce a list of recommendations from the new and exciting releases, over many genres.

To automatically receive the lists in future, please email us at  vv@venetiavyvyan.com.

Current and previous editions of our seasonal booklist can be viewed and downloaded here

Spring 2024, combined list

(view and download)

John Saumarez Smith 1943-2021

In front of me as I write, like a talisman, is the last card I received from John, a few days before he died.  The handwriting (always pretty illegible at the best of times) is spidery, but the sentiments are as robust and trenchant as ever.  He signs off with a familiar flourish , wishing me a “tolerable GETHSEMANE”, his code for the Christmas rush and the necessity of “keeping head above books”.

We all took it for granted at the time, but it wasn’t until John left Heywood Hill that we fully appreciated what we had there under his management.  Quite simply, the shop was a family for customers and staff alike.  It didn’t matter when or for how long you had worked there, who you had worked with or how long you had been a customer: you were part of the fabric, part of that shared experience of books, eccentricity, history.  He made sure of that.  His enthusiasm was infectious.  Whether it was the pleasure of showing off a rare book or sharing a new one, there was energy and vitality.  And of course there was that love of gossip, of a good story.

I shall miss his guiding spirit.  But it will continue to shape me as a bookseller.  I owe him that.