The extent of the devastation at Cosmo Books stunned not only owner Robert Downie but also firefighters who managed to prevent Wednesday’s blaze from spreading to other units in the industrial area.
Mr Downie is committed to rebuilding the business, saying he has received messages of support and offers of help from around the world.
“Cosmo Books was completely destroyed in a fire, following an incident at a nearby unit behind us,” he said.
“Our entire stock of approximately 170,000 titles has been lost, and nothing can be saved from destruction. We are therefore closed for business for the foreseeable future.”
“Regardless of the reason knowing that someone’s very deliberate actions led to the destruction of 170,000 titles – perhaps 85 percent of them dating from the 18th and 19th centuries or from before is awful. It is the banality of the thing. “
The alert was given at around 12:30 a.m. on Wednesday. Firefighters arrived to find flames bursting from the roof.
It started out in a unit attached to Cosmo Books but spread along the roof. The fire burned through the ceiling panels and onto Mr. Downie’s enormous 25-year collection of books.
Its catalog attracts buyers from as far away as America and New Zealand.
He was first alerted as he was about to head to the business park for work on Wednesday.
“A friend said there was a fire, the roads were closed and I might not be able to get in. As soon as I got there and saw the scale of the fire , I knew I would face total destruction. “
The entire stock – with the exception of about 150 books stored in the office – was completely destroyed by fire or water damage.
But Mr Downie has nothing but praise for the firefighters who worked through the night in difficult conditions.
“Once the fire broke out in the attic of my apartment, they could do nothing for me. But their remarkable and hard work has succeeded in saving the businesses of my neighbors and I am very grateful to them.
“The community has been so supportive. I have been offered a space where I can set up an office while we consider how we can rebuild the business. I am too young to retire and messages of support have come from as far as New Zealand. “
“Books are like nothing else, we can’t just get new inventory on a pallet or a truck. We had accumulated between 1,500 and 1,600 acts of Parliament, for example, now all destroyed.
“I was involved with my parents’ bookstore from the day I left school at 16 and you can’t help but have an affinity with them. We will rebuild.”