Frank Doel 1908 - 1968
Percy Doel was born in Wallasey, Cheshire on July 14th 1908 the youngest
of three children. By 1916 the family had migrated south taking up residence
at No. 309 Wightman Road, Hornsey, London N8.
In 1924, on leaving school, Frank started his first, and only, job with Marks and Co. Its likely that he began working at either 106 or 108 Charing Cross Road. From the outset and up until his untimely death he was always known as "young Frank"
He quickly became absorbed in the book trade gaining invaluable business expertise from the experienced Ben Marks whilst benefiting from Mark Cohen's comprehensive bibliographical knowledge. In later life Cohen would describe him as the shop's 'anchor man'.
met, and in the summer of 1936 married Mary Price, their daughter Sheila
was born in 1939. Within months of this happy event Frank was called
up for military service and spent most of the Second World War in the
Middle East, a Private in the RAOC (Royal Army Ordnance Corps). During
this time Frank's friend and colleague John Watson, himself exempt from
call up on health grounds, deputised for him at 84.(Watson later became
a director of Francis Edwards, at the time one of London's leading antiquarian
In common with most good bookmen he was immensely knowledgeable about books that he had never read. For pleasure he enjoyed reading thrillers, which he borrowed from the library, choosing books not by author but by publisher! (However there is evidence to suggest that he owned a copy of The Seven Blue Diamonds by Charles B. Stilson, click here to see Frank's signature inside the front cover!)
Although passionate about his work Frank did have other interests, he knew and liked a good deal of classical music, the result of attending concerts during his army days. He was a keen Tottenham Hotspur F.C. supporter, and went to most of their home matches often accompanied by his elder brother.
Sometime during 1952 Frank bought a car which, in the context of the times, must be seen as a major acquisition.
This 1939 model, believed to be a Morris was purchased from none other than Leo Marks!
had many good friends and colleagues in the antiquarian book trade,
not least John Watson (Details for John to be added later). Much of
his and Nora's social life centered round them and the couple were leading
lights of The Society of Antiquarian Booksellers Employees otherwise
known as the Bibliomites (it is recorded that Frank was a Committee
Member in 1963). They met about six times a year for social events such
as dinners and dances, visits to places of interest such as college
libraries, and an annual cricket match against the 'Guvnors', with Frank
as Umpire. Wives and families were involved, and a good time was had
by all. Frank also turned out for the Bibliomites in the Annual Darts
match and was on the winning side in 1960 when they beat the Employers
team that included Peter Kroger. The latter was imprisoned the next
year having been convicted of spying for the Soviet Union.
The picture on the left shows Frank with his family at a social event in the early 1960's, quite possibly a Bibliomites 'do'.
Left to right: Nora, Mary, Sheila and Frank.
Family friend Maurice Vidowsky remembers Frank..
family lived in a block of flats (apartments) in Oakfield Court, Crouch
End (North London).
Frank and Nora (pictured right) enjoying themselves at Maurice Vidowsky's Bar Mitzvah
"One day a fire broke out in the basement - a potential disaster, as you can imagine. Fortunately, the fire station was only a stone's throw away, and as soon as it had been summoned the fire engine appeared. However, to Dad's horror, it then proceeded to race up the road at top speed, bells ringing, and disappeared, leaving Dad jumping up and down on the pavement until it reappeared five minutes later, when the fire was finally dealt with."
By the late 1960's Frank was running the business virtually single handed, Ben Marks having died and Mark Cohen by this time an old and frail man.
Frank Doel died on December 22nd 1968. Such was the high regard in which he was held almost the whole of the London antiquarian book trade attended his funeral on a bitterly cold New Year's Day 1969.
This announcement in The Clique for January 4th, 1969 sums up the depth of feeling, it reads as follows: " It is with deep sorrow and regret we have to announce the death on the 22nd of December of MR. FRANK DOEL, who has been with us for over forty years. He will be greatly missed by us all and his many friends throughout the country. - Messrs. MARKS & CO., 84 Charing Cross Road, London, W.C.2." .