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Exclusive Books mourns the passing of founder Philip Joseph

It is with much sadness that we announce the passing of the founder of Exclusive Books, Philip Joseph.

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In 1951, Philip and Pamela Joseph founded the very first Exclusive Books in a tiny second-hand bookshop in King George Street, Johannesburg. Marketed by word-of-mouth, it developed the reputation of knowing customers personally and anticipating their reading needs. In 1973 Exclusive Books moved to Pretoria Street, Hillbrow, and the shop became Exclusive Book’s first flagship store. The shop soon became “the” place to see and be seen. One of the first shops to open for trading at night, over weekends and public holidays, Exclusive Books changed the face of bookselling in South Africa.

Philip then went on to co-found Books Etc in the United Kingdom, as well as fighting for change in the book industry to the benefit of readers worldwide.

Our CEO, Benjamin Trisk, wrote the following letter to his sons:

Dear Jonathan & Richard

I am deeply saddened to hear of Philip’s passing yesterday.

As you are no doubt aware I purchased Exclusive Books with my partners almost two years ago and I have frequently extolled his lasting influence on me. What I know about publishing, book selling and running a business was learned from him. I was so pleased to receive from Jonathan Ball (not a month ago) a wonderful picture of Philip with some of the doyens of the industry. I know that Jonathan was equally pleased that he was able to attend the dinner.

When Premier Group bought Philip’s business in 1978 Tony Bloom called me and asked whether I would, first, go and learn the business with Philip as my mentor and thereafter take the reins when he and Pam moved to England. It was a truly splendid time of my life. Philip was always generous with his knowledge. He was kind to all and razor-sharp. But he was more than this: he was a teacher in the real sense of the word and a great companion. We travelled overseas together and he introduced me to all his friends, some of whom still survive and whom I see when I am in London or New York.

It is a tribute to Philip that we still have employees in the business today who worked for him when I joined almost forty years ago.

Exclusive will honour his memory and I will find something appropriate. If you have a black and white picture of him in high resolution that you could send to me I would be grateful. A head and shoulders would be perfect. If it is colour we can also do something.

My sincere condolences to you and your families. A great man has passed.

I wish you a long life.


Exclusive Books deeply mourns the loss of this wonderful man who changed the South African book industry and the lives of many of it’s readers.

Our thoughts are with his family at this time.

“So much success in a business depends on the people running it. You require committed maniacs to run any business, and if there’s a shortage of committed maniacs then the businesses that don’t have them will suffer, whether they are large or small.” – Philip Joseph

You can read more about Philip Joseph, his life and the founding of Exclusive Books here.

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