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Last Updated: Thursday, 18 August 2005, 15:14 GMT 16:14 UK
Self-styled king of Hay sells up
Richard Booth
Richard Booth opened his bookshop in 1961
The self-proclaimed king of the second-hand book capital Hay-on-Wye has decided to sell his famous shop at the town's old fire station.

Richard Booth has helped transform the Powys town from a sleepy backwater into a thriving second-hand book economy in the last 40 years.

The 66-year-old plans to move to Germany and set up a bookshop and continue to promote book towns.

He said what he had created in Hay had become a worldwide phenomenon.

Mr Booth is closing a chapter on his life that stretches back to 1961, and plans to sell his bookshop and some of his books for 2m.

"My wife is as heartbroken at the thought of leaving as I am," he said.

His legacy will be that Hay changed from a small market town into a Mecca for second-hand book lovers
Roger Williams MP

"Book towns are starting spontaneously all over the world in countries like Germany, Norway and Sweden," he said.

He added that he had written to First Minister Rhodri Morgan about the fact that the "book town economy" was not being recognised in Wales.

A spokesperson from the assembly government confirmed Mr Booth had written to Rhodri Morgan, and said the first minister "will be sorry to hear of Mr Booth's plans to close his bookshop".

The king of Hay-on-Wye, who confers his own titles, received an MBE in the New Year's Honours list in 2003 for his services to tourism.

Brecon and Radnorshire MP Roger Williams said he would be sad if Mr Booth decided to leave.

There are now 38 bookshops in Hay-on-Wye

"His legacy will be that Hay changed from a small market town into a Mecca for second-hand book lovers and this transformed the local economy", he said.

"Although he was not particularly involved in the Hay Festival, he laid the foundations for its success and I for one will be eternally grateful for that".

Over the years, Mr Booth has persevered with his ambition of creating a book town, even resorting to such stunts as his 1977 declaration of independence for Hay-on-Wye when he proclaimed himself king and his horse was made prime minister.

Hay-on-Wye - known throughout the world for its specialisation in second-hand books - is now home to 38 bookshops.

Book king heads Welsh honours
31 Dec 03 |  Wales
MBE for Hay's book king
31 Dec 03 |  Mid
Rich chapter in book town's life
26 May 00 |  Business


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