Obituary: James Stevens Cox

By Barker, Nicolas | The Independent (London, England), March 18, 1997 | Go to article overview
Save to active project

Obituary: James Stevens Cox


Barker, Nicolas, The Independent (London, England)


If James Stevens Cox's main livelihood was to come from other sources, he remained a proud and active member of his hereditary profession: hairdressing and wigmaking.

He was bookseller, publisher, writer, archaeologist, local historian; but, although he sold the family business in 1955, he remained chairman of the Hairdressers' Registration Council, a regular contributor to the Registered Hairdresser, its quarterly journal, and one of the Chief Examiners in Ladies' Hairdressing and Wigmaking for the City and Guilds Institute. In 1966 he published An Illustrated Dictionary of Hairdressing and Wigmaking (the book was reissued in 1987).

There was a time when almost all booksellers were autodidacts. Stevens Cox was exceptional in that he was an autodidact before he was a bookseller, and he was, in a way, the last of his kind: those who teach themselves are few and far between (though they may become commoner). His education thus began before he went to school. He was born in Bristol. There his parents, William George Cox and Anne Eugenia (nee Stevens) traded at "Ye Olde Dutche House", 67 Wine Street, where his grandmother, Mrs F. Stevens, "practical hair worker and wig maker", offered "All Kind of Ornamental Hair Work, Fringes, Partings, Transformations, Scalpettes, &c., kept in stock, or made to order at the shortest possible notice". But his father was an Ilchester man, and his aunt still lived in the old family home, where the young Cox (not yet Stevens - he added the name to distinguish himself from another James Cox whose detention was unfairly inflicted on him at school) used to spend his holidays. When he was eight he found some old pottery while digging there in the garden; he took it back to Bristol, where the museum curator correctly identified it as Roman. At Bristol Grammar School, where he went in 1910, he came under the influence of its remarkable headmaster, John Barton, who instilled taste and judgement rather than a syllabus; the BBC producer Douglas Cleverdon was another of the pupils whose lives he inspired. Stevens Cox left at 16 to join his parents' business. If he had other ideas about his vocation, he kept them to himself. Reading books, and (for a little pocket money went a long way then) buying them, was the staple of his life. One of his favourite haunts was the premises, two houses full of books for sale, with more and a private library in yet another house next door, of a secondhand bookseller called Mathews. Every plane surface was filled with books, and the further parts could only be reached by tunnelling through book-piles. Mathews turned nothing away, and it was there that Stevens Cox acquired his remarkable knowledge of all the different kinds of book there were. He might have remained a book-loving hairdresser, but for a strange chance: the octogenarian owner married a wife who could not abide the dusty rubbish (as she saw it) that infested her new abode. Inspiration came: Stevens Cox borrowed money from his father, raised a mortgage, and bought the two houses and 75,000 books. A vast and dusty stock, not easily distinguishable from an almost equally large private library, remained with him throughout his bookselling career. He also became, and remained, a publisher: A Note on Henry Irving by Froom Tyler (1931) and Date (1935), Hubert Nicholson's poems, appeared under the imprint of the Coleridge Bookshop, as it now became. When the Second World War came he volunteered for the Royal Navy but was drafted into the Bristol City Police, in which he had some odd experiences.

The rest of this article is only available to active members of Questia

Sign up now for a free, 1-day trial and receive full access to:

  • Questia's entire collection
  • Automatic bibliography creation
  • More helpful research tools like notes, citations, and highlights
  • Ad-free environment

Already a member? Log in now.

Notes for this article

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
Loading One moment ...
Project items
Notes
Cite this article

Cited article

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

Cited article

Obituary: James Stevens Cox
Settings

Settings

Typeface
Text size Smaller Larger
Search within

Search within this article

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

While we understand printed pages are helpful to our users, this limitation is necessary to help protect our publishers' copyrighted material and prevent its unlawful distribution. We are sorry for any inconvenience.
Full screen

matching results for page

Cited passage

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

Cited passage

Welcome to the new Questia Reader

The Questia Reader has been updated to provide you with an even better online reading experience.  It is now 100% Responsive, which means you can read our books and articles on any sized device you wish.  All of your favorite tools like notes, highlights, and citations are still here, but the way you select text has been updated to be easier to use, especially on touchscreen devices.  Here's how:

1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
2. Click or tap the last word you want to select.

OK, got it!

Thanks for trying Questia!

Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

For full access in an ad-free environment, sign up now for a FREE, 1-day trial.

Already a member? Log in now.

Are you sure you want to delete this highlight?