Robert Humm & Co
Our business is now thirty-something - it was in 1974 that Robert put together his first catalogue of old and out-of-print railway books. It listed just 70 books. He advertised it in the Railway Magazine and was overwhelmed by requests for it. In those days the business was simply a hobby but from this promising start it grew fast: the catalogues became longer and the customers more numerous. A move from our small London flat to a large Victorian house nearby allowed the business to spread its wings and other transport subjects - shipping, canals, aviation and industrial history - were added to the repertory.
The acquisition of a huge collection of transport and general books led us to rent a small shop, initially to use for storage, but when we had put in shelving we opened it to the public.
Despite the new shop our house was groaning under the weight of books; those of you who visited us there will remember the piles of tomes in every room, up the stairs and on the landings. In the end Robert decided to risk giving up his job in the Civil Service and run the business full-time. The little shop (known as The Wyvern Bookshop) was re-vamped but was still too small. There seemed to be no affordable premises for a larger shop in our part of London and when we spotted BR Property Board's advertisement for the letting of the Stationmaster's house at Stamford we decided to view it more out of curiosity than with any real hope that it would be an answer to our problems.
We arrived at Stamford Station unannounced; Charlie in the booking office found the house key and showed us round. The house had stood empty for some years and was in a dismal state inside - our small girls were aghast at the idea of living in a house with no electricity and a dead mouse in the bath. However BR were understandably keen to let it and, rather to our surprise, the deal went though with no hitches. To the girls' relief, we weren't allowed to live in the station house because it was - and still is - 'operational property', but this was fine as we were keen to have a home free from heaps of books.
We found a local architect to plan the conversion of the gloomy dank house into a bright and airy shop; by the summer of 1987 it was ready to open and has not looked back since.
The business takes Robert and me away from the shop quite a lot, especially visiting people who have collections to sell us; preparing the catalogues also keeps Robert behind the scenes. If you telephone us you are most likely to speak to Mary, our knowledgeable and helpful counter staff. If a man answers it will be Robert, who likes to spend as much time as he can in the company of our customers and is often to be found behind the counter. As for me - Clare - I lurk in the attic surrounded by an ever-growing battery of electronic data-crunchers and gismos, gather the e-mails and do the other internet stuff, including, as you see, this web site.