“Buying a small shop in Hay-on-Wye meant that instead of playing a minor role in a major business, I could play a major role in a minor one,” he wrote in his autobiography, “My Kingdom of Books” (1999).
He purchased the previous firehouse, then warehouses and a Norman fort, and started transport in truckloads of books. Copycats flourished, too.
“Booth was buying them at pennies on the dollar in the United States,” Paul Collins wrote in “Sixpence House: Lost in a Town of Books” (2003), a ebook about Hay, “as previous seminaries went bankrupt, as ignoramuses staffing Peabody Libraries offered off their treasures — as a result of ‘nobody reads them’ — as New York establishments like Stechert-Hafner shut their doorways, and as little previous wealthy girls died and left libraries to half-literate progeny.”
Mr. Booth’s stock was encyclopedic. Browsers may discover copies of “Ploughing Regulations for Bengal” and character research of Cromwell’s cranium. Americans stocked their private libraries on the idea of particular bindings. He furnished books for film units and equipped a German city with the manuals to duplicate the Wehrmacht’s unique archive.
On April 1, 1977, Mr. Booth declared Hay an impartial kingdom and named his horse prime minister, a stunt that he later augmented with passports and peerages. While he by no means abdicated, by 2005 his half-dozen shops had dwindled to at least one, which he offered. He continued to function the King of Hay, which offered regal trumpery celebrating his reign.
His first two marriages had been, as he described them, unsuccessful. (The second lasted at some point. “Vicky wanted to flout authority,” he wrote, “whereas I did not think authority was worth flouting.”) In the late 1980s he married Hope Barrie Stuart, a photographer, who survives him, as do two sisters, Joanna and Anne.
Mr. Booth’s campaigns for public workplace had been additionally unsuccessful. As the Socialist Labour Party candidate for the Welsh Assembly in 1999 and for the European Parliament a decade later, he drew lower than 2 % of the vote.