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Gay's the Word co-founder leaves 'phenomenal collection' of LGBTQ literature to University of London

Jonathan Cutbill passed away at the age of 82 last year

2020-01-24

Words: Steve Brown

Gay’s the Word co-founder Jonathan Cutbill left a ‘phenomenal collection’ of LGBTQ literature to the University of London.

The pioneering bookshop owner starting the Bloomsbury bookshop back in 1979 with Peter Dorey and Ernest Hole and during his time, he built up a huge collection of LGBTQ-related literature and the shop became the UK’s first LGBT-dedicated bookshop.

In 1984, Gay’s the Word was raided by Her Majesty’s Custom and Excise officers.

Dubbed ‘Operation Tiger,’ they seized thousands of pounds worth of stock that were deemed obscene by the British government.

The bookshop’s board of directors and staff members, including Jonathan, were charged with conspiracy to import indecent material.

A campaign was set up in defence of the shop and charges were finally dropped.

Jonathan retired back in 1993 and moved to Shropshire. He died at the age of 82 after a period of ill health in May last year.

And now, according to the BBC, Cutbill left his mammoth collection of LGBTQ literature – which dates back to 1760 – to the University of London.

The collection includes novels, pamphlets and newspapers, including every copy of Gay News, which ran for 11 years.

Close friend Geoff Hardy said Cutbill began collecting in the 1970s and said: “The idea was to stock the books that other people were not stocking, but also to become a bookshop with the knowledge of LGBTQ history and literature.

"Not only is it a phenomenal collection dating way back to 1760, it is also catalogued and cross referenced - he was a museum man.

"He was passionate about justice. And not just LGBTQ justice. Justice."