George Bayntun was born in Bath on 4th August 1873. He served his apprenticeship with the Taylor family in Trim Street and started his own bookbinding business in Northumberland Place in 1894. He employed London binders to raise the standard of craftsmanship and soon moved into a larger workshop in Walcot Street. Book Auction Records for 1906 recognised his success: "He has brought intelligence into play as well as high craftsmanship". In 1920 he bought the business of George Gregory, with a stock of books filling 23 rooms, and in 1939 the Bayntun and Riviere binderies were incorporated into our present premises in Manvers Street.
George Bayntun was fondly described by Wilmarth Lewis in Collectors Progress (Constable, 1954): "He wore a smock in the shop and after selling a certain number of books took snuff. The sneeze released fresh energies". Questioned about his adherence to traditional techniques he responded, "We work in the old way. Machine binding? Ah yes... but not for us". He had an especially good relationship with many of the pre-eminent American dealers, and Arthur Brentano, Maurice Inman, Nat Ladden and Dr Rosenbach hosted a lunch in his honour on a visit to New York in 1936.
George Bayntun died in 1940 at the age of 67, having built a world famous business. Wilmarth Lewis wrote "After twenty seven years his books are sound and with any kind of care they will remain so forever". George Bayntun's final years were crowned by the frequent and knowledgeable patronage of Queen Mary, who spent the war years at Badminton, near Bath. In 1950, she granted the firm the appointment of Bookseller to Her Majesty.
During the Second World War the Admiralty commandeered half of the new Manvers Street property and most of the staff joined the services. The firm struggled on with a series of managers, and George's only child, Constance, stubbornly oversaw its survival. In 1953 she was joined by her son, Hylton Bayntun-Coward (pictured above). The following year he took over the management, regained former employees, and restored confidence, profitability and the bindery's worldwide reputation for the highest standards of craftsmanship. He served twice as President of the Antiquarian Booksellers' Association, in 1980-82 and 1992-93, and as High Sheriff of the County of Avon in 1993-94.
On Hylton's death, at the age of 67 in 2000, over 700 friends attended his memorial service in Bath Abbey and lengthy obituaries appeared in the Times, Telegraph and Independent. Anthony Rota told the apocryphal story about four booksellers, an Englishman, a Scotsman, an American, and Japanese, who were stranded together on a desert island. They none of them knew one another, but they all knew Hylton Bayntun-Coward.
George Bayntun is now owned and managed by Hylton's son, Edward Bayntun-Coward (pictured top-right). Educated at Marlborough College and University College, Oxford, he worked for almost ten years at Maggs Bros in Berkeley Square. He is Chairman of the Bath Preservation Trust and a number of museums, including No.1 Royal Crescent, The Countess of Huntingdon's Chapel and William Beckford's Tower on Lansdown. He is married to Laura, who he met at Maggs, and they have three children, who all love books.