The Story of Keep Calm and Carry On

The now iconic Keep Calm and Carry On poster never used to be that iconic. It was never actually released for the public – a design left in the back room, ready to be launched in the event of invasion.

It was never released. But it was found – in a bookstore in Alnwick, England: Barter Books.

In the end, the poster was never officially issued, and it remained unseen by the public, until a copy turned up more than 50 years later. It was found in a second-hand bookshop called Barter Books in the northeast corner of England.

Barter books was begun in 1991 by a couple: Stuart and Mary Manley. They building used to be an old Victorian railway station. Huge rows of stacked shelves now stand in place where the tracks would have been, but the stations old tea rooms and waiting rooms are still there.

It was in 2000 that Stuart found the poster in a box of dusty old books that had been bought at auction. Mary liked it so much she had it framed and put it up near the shop till, and it proved so popular with the customers that a year later they began to sell copies.

I had the opportunity to visit Barter Books in 2000 while I was visiting Kerrie during her study abroad semester in Alnwick, England. When I envision the perfect bookstore, Barter Books is what comes to mind. To have this story connected to something I hold so dear – and, to be honest, something I still think of as my little secret – is wonderful.


This was lovingly handwritten on March 6th, 2012