WHSmith logo from the Image Library at whsmithplc.co.uk

In the UK, WHSmith is a major company selling mainly newspapers, books and stationery.

I was surprised to see this label inside my first edition copy of Wildfire at Midnight and was curious to find out more so I searched online for some facts. It turns out that WHSmith started as a newsagent way back in 1792. By 1828, it had the company name of WHSmith. Many of its outlets were at railway stations and, when Mudie’s Select Library turned down the chance to run libraries at Smith’s railway bookstalls, William Henry Smith began his own library lending service: this ran between 1860 and 1961.

Readers were able to borrow a WH Smith library book from a railway bookstall before boarding their train, and then return it to a different bookstall when they reached their destination – this sounds like an excellent idea to me!

I couldn’t resist a peek at the 1945 film Brief Encounter: had the Celia Johnson character borrowed her library book from WHSmith? After all, much of the film is set at railway stations. But no, it was Boots the pharmacist that supplied Laura with “the latest Kate O’Brien”.


To find this information, I looked at: Wikipedia, the WHSmith website,youtube and this interesting Newcastle University/E.G West Centre blog post on The Rise and Fall of For-Profit Libraries.