Rare Book Monthly

Articles - November - 2021 Issue

Fire Claims Another Bookshop

New Street, Wem, Shrewsbury SY4 5JX, in the United Kingdom.  A fire tore through a building in Shrewsbury at Wem Industrial Estate overnight on 7 October, closing roads and cutting power to the town.  Fire has long been a hazard for the old and rare book trade and a bookshop, Cosmo Books, was located there.


The alarm was raised about 12.30am, the firefighters arriving to find flames shooting from the roof.  It started in an adjoining unit to Cosmo Books but spread along the roof space. The fire burned through ceiling panels and onto Mr. Downie's huge collection of books, built up over 25 years.

Old books over time fail, falling apart, their pages detaching but such insults can often be repaired, except when the damage is caused by water or fire as there is little that can be done.  Those sworn enemies of old paper have been culling the printed herd since the first awl made the first marks on papyrus.


In the face of the fire, the Book store owners and their operators at Cosmo have no quit in them and Robert Downie, the firm’s owner, fully expects to get past the recent catastrophe.  In response, he has provided his statement and an account:



On Wednesday 5th October 2021 Cosmo Books was entirely destroyed in a fire, from an arson incident at a neighboring unit behind us, and there is an ongoing criminal investigation into it, though I don’t suppose anything will come of it that does us any good really.


Our entire stock of about 170,000 titles has been lost, and almost nothing can be salvaged from the destruction.  T.L. Dallas, our insurers, are of course involved, and with a little luck insurance will prove vital to the speed of our recovery.


There’s a saying about life happens to you when you are making other plans.  I can certainly understand that now.


Our immediate plans:  we now have some small office space where we can begin the process of rebuilding our stock whilst we look for a suitable large premises, so we might, with a little luck, be able to make progress more quickly than had earlier seemed possible.


Samantha, Amanda, and myself are each quite determined this will not defeat us.  If anyone in the UK would like to quote me runs of journals, such as History Today, Archaeologia, The Quarterly Review, The Edinburgh Review, Country Life, and similar material I’d be pleased to hear from them.


As to the scale of the loss of inventory, Cosmo Books, did not lose their electronic inventory of 165,000 items that were priced.  For discussions about insurance, the total of the retail prices will provide a very clear starting point.


Robert Downie [Cosmo Books] -

View our stock of over 165,000 titles here;



Cosmo Internet Ltd t/a Cosmo Books

9, Wem Business Park, New Street, 

Wem, Shropshire. SY4 5JX

Co. reg. No. 08333546.  Vat No. GB162765101.




Here are articles about the fire that were published elsewhere:


Shopshire Star



The extent of the devastation at Cosmo Books stunned not only owner, Robert Downie, but also firefighters who managed to stop Wednesday's blaze spreading to other units on the industrial estate.

Mr Downie has vowed to rebuild the business, saying he had received messages of support and offers of help from across the world.

"Cosmo Books was entirely destroyed in a fire, from an incident at a neighbouring unit behind us," he said.

"Our entire stock of about 170,000 titles has been lost, and nothing can be salvaged from the destruction. We are therefore closed for business for the foreseeable future."

He said the knowledge that the fire had been started deliberately

Posted On: 2021-11-01 01:00
User Name: bukowski

Definitely not arson.

Posted On: 2021-11-01 01:07
User Name: bukowski

Police say it WAS arson. So who did it? Perhaps an unscrupulous individual or group of individuals? Time for Willoughby - OF THE YARD!

Rare Book Monthly

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