Coles Book Arcade, 1883-1928

Coles Book Arcade in Bourke Street must have been a magical place – and impressive ! EW Cole opened this emporium of books in 1883, with new publications on the ground, second hand on the first floor (and ornaments on top!). He provided chairs for people to sit and read with no need to buy, an impressive innovation for the 1880s. Later he provided an Ariary, monkeys, an orchestra, and extended further and further eventually to Collins Street, selling music, stationary, wholesale books, children’s books, and a fernery, a cafe and an art gallery. Some of the images here are from the book, from a family album held by the @library_vic, most undated, but appear to be 1880s 1920s, others in their general collection.

Coles Book Arcade in Bourke Street was decorated with a giant rainbow 🌈 isnt that nice? It looks like it was sculpted on, and then painted – I think it had the 7 (8?) colours of the traditional rainbow, as seen on the covers of his #ColesFunnyPictureBook, but with the darkest colours on the outside. E W Cole was not only a bookseller but an had and promoted many utopian ideas, which the rainbow represented, such as World Federation, all religions have the same ideals, aircraft are coming (he was right!), if everyone treated others as they like to be treated, there would be no more war. All this is outlined in a great book published 2019, last image, miegunyah press.

The arcade was here from 1883 until 1928, when it was replaced by Coles Store No 1 (no relation), later DJs menswear, about to be something else. Images 1. @library_vic, 2. Internet, 3. Internet, but originally @boroondaralibraryservice, looks to be him in his 40s, about the time he opened his first arcade up the street in 1873.

Cole started selling books a bit by accident it seems, moving on from pies he was selling at the Eastern Market, to a stall, to a bigger stall, and then to his first ‘arcade’ in 1873 a few doors down Bourke Street – it was a big double level space, he was always thinking bigger once he saw success, and its possible he named his shop ‘arcade’ after the rather new 1872 Eastern Arcade, which was next to the market.

Is your #whatnot needing a new ornament ? Then head up to the top floor of #ColesBookArcade, in Bourke Street in 1886, and speak to Mrs Eliza Cole. Yes she married the eccentric proprietor #EWCole after answering his ad in the newspapers seeking a wife, and they’re both very happy. After that, you should check out the Crinkled and Fancy Paper department, and then maybe rest up in the Fernery, where you might see the whole family in about 1900 lounging around, since they all live above the popular establishment.

3 thoughts on “Coles Book Arcade, 1883-1928

  1. Enjoyed your reading your article!
    Could you let me know where the postcard image of ‘Cole’s Book Arcade and 6 Art Galleries comes from,
    and whether it is copyrighted ?


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