Hugh Rayner - the founder of Indiabooks:
I studied Photography at Colchester School of Art in the early 1970’s, before starting a career as a professional photographer; primarily working in the travel and cruise ship industry.
In 1973 I moved to Bath; where I have been based ever since, (in between travels). I first travelled in South Asia in 1975; spending 3 months journeying overland; via Iran, Afghanistan, Pakistan & India, to Nepal. This proved to be a seminal influence on my life and I have been returning there ever since, at regular intervals; travelling repeatedly to Nepal, Tibet, Afghanistan, Pakistan and India; attempting (sometimes successfully) to capture something of the beauty of the region on camera. I have developed over the years, a passionate love of the country, and especially the mountains of the Himalaya; which have become virtually a second home.
In the early 1980’s I spent some time back in England, including a year doing an Honorary Fellowship in printmaking at Bath Academy of Art, as well as working as a professional photographer; also interspersed with periods doing other work, including stage manager for an alternative theatre company and teaching Photography. In 1986, having always been an obsessive reader; I found myself slowly transforming into an antiquarian book dealer; initially exhibiting at Book and Antique Fairs; later briefly opening a small book shop in Bath, (only to rapidly discover that I am not a shop-keeper by temperament or inclination!)
I then returned to exhibiting at Book fairs, in London and around the UK, and was a member of the PBFA for over twenty years; becoming ever more specialised. In 1992 I started issuing regular catalogues of books solely on India & South Asia. Although this worked very successfully for many years; the whole nature of the antiquarian book trade has altered beyond recognition, with the introduction of internet book-selling on sites such as Ebay and ABE etc. Book fairs slowly ceased to be viable for my range of highly specialised material, and as the book trade has overall, moved in a direction that no longer holds great interest for me, I left the PBFA and largely ceased dealing in general antiquarian books on India, in early 2011; in order to concentrate on collecting, researching and writing about, (as well as dealing in), early photography from India and South Asia. For a range of fine early photography from India & South Asia, visit my companion website: www.indiaphotographs.co.uk
I also continue to import and retail a limited range of specialist new and out-of-print books maps and prints, sourced mainly from India; which comprise the bulk of the material offered on this website.
In 2000, I established Pagoda Tree Press; initially to specialise in republishing early Indian & Himalayan Guide books and other obscure reference works, that were otherwise now unobtainable. This has grown to become an increasing part of my business, as I have slowly learnt the subtle art of publishing, from its most basic elements; and am now working, on an increasingly varied and more exciting range of publishing projects, some of them completely new titles and others, reprints of rare works; primarily on the history of Photography in India, otherwise long out of print.