G. H. Last

George Herbert Last of Bromley, who served as ABA President in 1937, was born at Rougham, near Bury St. Edmund’s, in Suffolk in 1877.  His father, Albert Last (1842-1888), had a rural combination of occupations – gardener and part-time sub-postmaster.  His mother, Sarah Lucy Carbery (1837-1928), was the London-born daughter of a lawyer’s clerk.  They had married in 1863.  We catch the family on the 1881 Census Return, living in Rougham – George Herbert Last the sixth of seven children, of whom the eldest was already a postman at the age of sixteen. 

Last’s father died when he was eleven.  His mother was, I suppose, fortunate enough to become the village postmistress and by 1891 an elder sister was a telegraph clerk and another brother a postman.  Last himself, at the age of just fourteen, was already done with any kind of formal education and employed as a grocer’s assistant.  And a grocer he became.  This was how he described himself in 1905 when at the age of twenty-eight he married Annie Elizabeth Carbery (1875-1945), a dressmaker and presumably a cousin of some sort on his mother’s side.  She was the daughter of a bellringer at St. Paul’s Cathedral, later a verger.

By 1911, Last and his wife were living at 100 London Road, Bromley, with their infant daughter May Gladys Last (1910-1961) – an earlier child having died in infancy.  But by now Last had become a bookseller.  Quite what programme of self-education he must have adopted to master the kind of material he was later to deal in - history, literature, topography and manuscript material - I do not know.  Somehow he managed and his shop at 25 The Broadway, (later at 21A High Street), in the middle of Bromley and his long series of almost 300 catalogues became very widely known.  Countless collectors, libraries and institutions throughout the world bought from him and enriched their collections.

Last died on 25th October 1949.  His son, Eric George Carbery Last (1911-1996), had earlier joined the business, which traded as "G. H. Last & Son" in its later years, Eric continuing to produce catalogues after his father's death until at least 1951.

Outside of his book career, Last was a stalwart of the Bromley Bowling Club.  It was he who in 1929 first proposed the Kent County Bowling Association Benevolent Fund.  It came into being the following year and he served as one of its trustees from 1930 until shortly before his death. 

Laurence Worms (2012)