The history of Jimmy Page’s Equinox occult bookshop

Manager Dave Reed inside The Equinox bookshop in London
Manager Dave Reed photographed inside The Equinox bookshop in London by Clive Harper on August 12, 1977 (Clive Harper)

It was the Summer of 1974 and Jimmy Page had finally realised his passion project of opening a bookshop dedicated to occult books in London.

The Equinox bookshop at 4 Holland Street, a short walk from Page’s London home, had recently opened its doors next to a burger restaurant. Visitors could purchase items such as “Liber B vel Magi” by Aleister Crowley that were affixed with the bookshop’s logo.

But despite Page’s status as a world-famous rock musician, the shop had a serious problem: Some of its employees were “incompetent and perhaps dishonest,” according to a previously unseen notice about this period issued by the bookshop’s auditors.

“As the Company’s business is transacted primarily in cash we have therefore been unable to satisfy ourselves that the turnover of the period is accurately reflected in these Accounts,” Equinox’s auditors wrote when filing accounts for the shop’s first period of trading.

Essentially, it was impossible to track how many sales Page’s passion project actually made because its employees had lost track of its cash and may even have been stealing money from the bookshop.

Page was eventually forced to replace the shop’s manager Eric Hill after he became addicted to heroin, started a band with a conga player in the shop’s basement, attracted the attention of police and became stranded in Crete where he survived by picking grapes for money in a park.

LedZepNews has obtained more than 100 pages of previously unseen filings made by the bookshop’s parent company that, along with a new interview with the artist hired by Page to design the bookshop’s interior and a review of out-of-print back issues of an obscure occult magazine, reveal a history of the business, its formation, and the troubles it faced.

Despite remaining open until around 1979, Equinox only published two books. An analysis by LedZepNews of the bookshop’s previously unseen accounts reveals it was constantly loss making and reliant on money from Page to remain open.

LedZepNews obtained 189 pages of filings from the bookshop’s parent company through a request made to Companies House, the UK government organisation that maintains a register of companies in the country. The documents are now publicly available for everyone to read through the Companies House website.

The origins of The Equinox

The earliest indication of Page’s plan to open an occult bookshop in London date back to September 1970 when he travelled to New York as part of Led Zeppelin’s 1970 US tour.

While in New York, Page visited Weiser Antiquarian Books on 734 Broadway, the oldest occult book store in the US. As he browsed the store, he met employee Eric Hill and the pair became friendly.

“Whenever Jimmy came to New York we would go to bookstores or anything else that might be happening like screenings of Kenneth Anger films, or museum exhibits,” Hill said in an interview published in the 37th issue of Behutet Magazine, a digital copy of which was provided to LedZepNews by Thelesis Lodge.

“We recognised the possibility of creating a shop with aesthetic refinement,” Hill continued. “Our dreams at the time were fantastic.”

Speaking to journalist Lisa Robinson in an interview published in the February 15, 1975 edition of NME, Page described his idea for the shop. “The reason I got the bookshop together was because there was not one bookshop in London with a good collection of occult books and I was so pissed off at not being able to get the books I wanted,” he said. “And, whereas I can’t ever see that shop making money, there’ll be a bit of publishing there – astrology books and things like that.”

Designing the bookshop

In 1973, Page spoke to Paul Reeves, a fashion designer turned antiques dealer, and mentioned his plan to create a bookshop in London. Reeves passed that information on to Jon Wealleans, an artist and architect.

“Paul told me that Jimmy had a collection of Aleister Crowley’s wands or memorabilia that he wanted to put in the shop,” Wealleans tells LedZepNews. “I had met [Page] before but that was my first main introduction to him.”

“Jimmy was a very, very interesting man, a nice man and a very good musician. I was intrigued,” Wealleans says. “It was also quite a small job, quite an easy little job to do.”

Page hired Wealleans to design his bookshop, leaving the architect to come up with a unique interior. “I had pretty much free reign,” Wealleans says. “Jimmy and Led Zeppelin at that time were very busy … I saw Jimmy intermittently and we talked about it. He offered mild criticism. He thought it was a bit too Charles Rennie Mackintosh.”

Filing the paperwork

What would become the company behind the Equinox bookshop started life as Saracastle, a British business whose incorporation paperwork was completed on November 26, 1973. The company officially started life on December 14, 1973.

Initially, Saracastle’s purpose was kept intentionally unclear. Its purpose was everything from property dealing to helping set up and run “any schools and any educational, scientific, literary, religious or charitable institutions or trade societies.”

Once the company began to exist, new paperwork was filed on December 14, 1973 to clarify Saracastle’s purpose as “to carry on the business of printers, engravers, publishers, book and print sellers…”

A handwritten annotation on the company’s paperwork sums it up: The word “property” was written at the top of a document and crossed out, with “printers” written underneath. Page owned half of the company, with Led Zeppelin’s manager Peter Grant owning the other half.

Inside the bookshop

By April 19, 1974, Equinox had found a home at 4 Holland Street next to a restaurant called Home Of The Heavenly Hamburger. Page’s accountants filed paperwork to change its legal address to its new shop. The business officially began trading on June 20, 1974.

Hill had spent six months living inside Boleskine House, the former home of Aleister Crowley on the banks of Loch Ness in Scotland that Page had purchased, but now moved to London to run the bookshop for Page while living in the apartment that was spread across three floors above the shop.

“Jimmy, the genius he is, had fantastic ideas,” Hill told Behutet Magazine. “He had put a lot of thought into the Equinox’s layout, furnishings and decoration.”

“The first floor was the actual store, the basement was for storage and processing incoming and outgoing shipments, and the three floors above comprised the apartment. The shop was partitioned with glass panels etched with Egyptian Gods – Thoth of course and Horus, as well as others.”

“All the shelving and displays were rendered in a black neo-Egyptian Art Deco style with soft lighting throughout. The rarities were kept locked behind glass at the back of the shop. There was a notebook of Austin Osman Spare’s, a pipe that’d belonged to Crowley, authentic Golden Dawn weapons. On the walls hung paintings by Crowley, Spare, and other exotic items.”

Speaking to LedZepNews, Wealleans recalls the shop being “very, very simple and dark … it had three mirrored columns.”

“It was quite a pretty little shop on Holland Street. Jimmy was very worried about the budget, but he got an incredibly good deal because I was doing another building and used the workforce from that on a part-time pirate business,” Wealleans previously told Barney Hoskyns in the 2012 book “Trampled Under Foot: The Power and Excess of Led Zeppelin”

WordPress user Mo Batchelor visited the shop and recalled the interior in a 2014 blog post. “I think the outside of the bookshop was painted black, but the inside walls were light, and it was nicely lit. The till was just near the door, and there was a frame next to the till that ran up to the ceiling, with a sheet of glass in it, etched with an image of Eliphas Levi’s Baphomet. It was rather stylish.”

Jimmy Page's Equinox bookshop in London
(Led Zeppelin Official Forum/Knebby)

According to Clive Harper, writing in the 33rd issue of Behutet Magazine, the shop had “made to measure shelving down one side of the shop. By the till, there hung a large glass screen with an etched design based on Eliphas Levi’s famous Baphomet / Goat of Mendes drawing. Between the till and the front of the shop there was a glass display case used to house the real treasures. I can clearly remember there being a first edition set of the Equinox in the display case.”

Opening The Equinox

The shop was almost ready to open after months of work installing fittings. But Page still wasn’t content.

“One of his greatest ideas was hanging in the front window a hand-sewn rendering of the Stele of Revealing; the hieroglyphs and images were made out of individual pieces of coloured cloth sewn on a large piece of fabric that’d been stained with tea to approximate the patina of the original,” Hill told Behutet Magazine.

“This would be rolled up in the morning to show off the ever-changing window display of new books that’d arrived, then rolled down in the evening to call an end to commercial concerns and a beginning for pursuits of contemplation and spiritual endeavours.”

4 Holland Street as it appears today (Google Maps)

Another crucial addition to the shop decided on by Page was a sound system, Wealleans recalled in Hoskyns’ book. “So we got a taxi to the Tottenham Court Road, which he thought a bit of an extravagance. A couple of people half-recognised him and we ended up with these two big boxes of Wharfedale speakers and were standing on the pavement with them. It started to rain and he suggested we take a bus. He was wearing this old brown overcoat he seemed very fond of, and he was looking at buses rather yearningly. He’s a strange man – a nice man, basically, but very, very weird about money.”

The shop opened quietly with little fanfare in either 1973 or 1974, with sources offering varying accounts of the shop’s opening date. The bookshop began by selling books and magazines made by other publishers, adding a bookplate featuring the shop’s logo, a version of the illustration found on the front cover of The Equinox, a magazine founded by the A∴A∴ organisation that was started by Crowley. That logo also hung on a black sign outside the shop.

“It was an occult bookshop, and it covered all manner of things like astrology and yoga, eastern mysticism, western mysticism, it was right across the board,” Page recalled in a 2017 interview with Uncut Magazine. “It’s very similar to what you have in a bookshop like Watkins really, that’s what it was.”

“I was interested in alternative… basically, things alternative. There was quite a number of like-minded people around at that point in time so I had a book shop in West London because there were a couple on Museum Street and there was one in Cecil Court,” he continued.

To advertise the shop’s opening, an advert was placed in Volume 1 Number V edition of Sothis magazine, which was published in March 1975. “The Equinox bookshop is now open with the finest selection of occult books available,” the advert read, according to a copy of it published in Behutet Magazine. “Full stock of every Crowley reprint plus Qabalah/Sufism/Yoga/Astrology/Tantra/Tarot Cards etc.”

The advertisement for the opening of The Equinox published in Volume 1 Number V edition of Sothis magazine (Behutet Magazine/Clive Harper/Sothis)

Tracking the books sold

LedZepNews has reviewed sales listings for books subsequently resold that feature the Equinox bookplate, allowing us to track some of the books sold in Page’s shop. Titles sold include “The I Ching. A new Translation of the Book of Changes” by Crowley, “How We Do Things”, a book by the academic and spiritualist John G. Bennett, and “Liber B vel Magi” also by Crowley.

According to Batchelor’s blog post, other books sold by the shop include “Meditations on the Signs of the Zodiac” by John Jocelyn, “Mastering Witchcraft: A Practical Guide for Witches, Warlocks and Covens” by Paul Huson and “The Horoscope: The Road and Its Travellers” by Alan Oken.

Equinox bookplate
A bookplate for The Equinox in a book sold by the shop (AbeBooks/The Sanctuary Bookshop)

Writing in his 2008 Led Zeppelin biography “When Giants Walked the Earth”, author Mick Wall reported that the shop had “a large section devoted to Crowley’s works, including several books signed by Crowley, plus his birth chart pinned to one wall, and a first edition set of Crowley’s ten-volume work The Equinox priced at £350.”

The bookshop sold copies of Sothis magazine, according to its founder Mike Magee. He also produced copies of occult books, such as works by Crowley.

“You had to buy all the materials up front and then wait for the bookshops to pay up,” he wrote in a 2014 blog post. “This sometimes took some time. The Equinox, once, rather than paying, invited me to take the value of my invoice in books.”

“The Equinox also took multiple copies of SOTHiS magazine and produced editions of occult books. A negative review of one of these books led to the chap running the bookshop cutting out the pages with the negative review before putting them on the shelves for sale.”

Unfriendly staff

Staff at the bookshop weren’t welcoming to customers, accounts claim. “The guys who were behind the till (as I remember) weren’t very friendly, and reminded me of those aloof, grumpy hippies that didn’t really want to be around people,” Batchelor wrote in the 2014 blog post.

“Once when I was looking for books in there I found one to peruse and, being a good aspiring teen hippie in 1975, I sat cross legged on the floor to have a look at the book in more detail. Over came padding the till man, really quickly, to tell me that people weren’t allowed to sit on the floor in the shop,” she continued.

Hill ran the shop from the time it opened, but soon “intentionally became addicted” to heroin, he told Behutet Magazine. He then started a band with the conga-playing girlfriend of a groupie and they began rehearsing in the shop’s basement before the police ordered them to stop.

“Eric was a friend of Jimmy’s from New Orleans who worked at Equinox and found old books for him,” journalist Nick Kent said of Hill in “Trampled Under Foot: The Power and Excess of Led Zeppelin”. “I wasn’t into the occult – it was always very Dennis Wheatley to me – but Eric and I had heroin in common.”

“Eric Hill was an unwelcoming presence. I got the impression that he lived in the shop and slept in the back,” Wealleans tells LedZepNews. “No-one was going in, I don’t think there was much trade … it was a bit like walking into somebody’s living room. It just wasn’t a welcoming place.”

Hill’s eventual departure from the shop and his London home on the floors above it followed a disastrous attempt to overcome his heroin addiction by staying on a yacht off the coast of Greece for two weeks.

“The car burned out in Germany, I had a fight with my benefactors and got dumped in Crete,” Hill told Behutet Magazine. “I lived in the park and picked grapes for money. I finally got enough cash to get a ferry to mainland Greece and hitchhiked back to London, stopping in Amsterdam long enough to refuel my drug habit. I had been away for months and on my return found that I’d been replaced at the Equinox.”

Dave Reed takes over

While Hill was picking grapes in a park in Crete, Page replaced him with Dave Reed, who ran the shop for around three years. “It must be said that strict adherence to standard opening hours was not one of the shop’s most notable features,” Harper wrote in Behutet Magazine. “On several occasions I made my way to the shop, only to find it closed.”

The photograph below, originally published in the 33rd issue of Behutet Magazine, was taken by Harper and shows Reed inside The Equinox on August 12, 1977. Reed appears to be standing next to the glass screen featuring a drawing of Baphomet.

The Equinox manager Dave Reed photographed inside the London bookshop on August 12, 1977 by Clive Harper (Clive Harper)

As well as Hill, the bookshop was also run by Peter Simister. “Everybody of course referred to him as ‘Peter Sinister’. He was one of those short-sighted bookish types who had to peer very hard at you before he recognised you,” Marilyn Cole, the wife of Led Zeppelin tour manager Richard Cole, said in Hoskyns’ book.

An awkward love triangle

The Equinox bookshop and the apartment above it may also have become a haven for Page’s partner Charlotte Martin in November 1974 after Page began an affair with Krissy Wood, the then-wife of Ronnie Wood.

The situation was complicated even further when Bebe Buell, an American model who had dated Page, arrived in London in November 1974 days after becoming Playboy magazine’s Playmate of the Month.

“Peter Grant had instructed me to telephone the Equinox bookshop on arrival in London, Buell wrote in her 2001 autobiography “Rebel Heart: An American Rock ‘n’ Roll Journey”.

“I phoned from New York to make sure they knew I was arriving and spoke to the bookstore’s manager, Eric, who very politely said, ‘Just come to the store. We’ll sort you out, and then you’ll go out to the country.’”

“As soon as I actually got to the bookshop, Eric explained that I could not stay there, although Jimmy owned the shop and a comfortable apartment above it, because Charlotte, the mother of his child, was going to be staying there,” she continued.

The Equinox published 2 books

After being open for months under the Equinox name, Page decided to file paperwork renaming the business from Saracastle. First, paperwork was filed on August 19, 1974 to rename the business The Equinox. However, the fee for that name change was refunded, records show, perhaps because a business with that name already existed.

Instead, Page filed paperwork to rename the company The Equinox (Book Sellers and Publishers) on November 19, 1974. The change was finalised and made legal on January 20, 1975.

With the bookshop now open, Page could realise his dream of publishing books himself. The first volume the shop released in 1975 was a new edition of “Astrology: A Cosmic Science”, a 1970 book by Isabel Hickey for which it charged £5.

Hickey, born in 1903, was an American astrology author and is considered a pioneer in the field of spiritual astrology. “So you have decided to study astrology. Welcome,” the book’s preface reads. “You are starting a journey toward self-understanding as well as gaining the ability to understand how the other fellow operates.”

The Equinox described this publication as “288 pages printed in black. Illustrated title page in blue and black. Good quality cartridge paper used throughout, blue end papers and fully bound in dark blue linson, with tasteful gold blocking on front cover and spine. Transparent dust wrapper. Diagrams and illustrations in text. First English edition.”

With one book under its belt, the bookshop moved on to publishing a new edition of Crowley’s 76-page translation of The Goetia of Solomon the King. The 1976 publication was a facsimile of the original 1904 first edition of Crowley’s book, complete with Equinox’s logo printed inside. It was priced at £5.55.

“Our publication is a facsimile of the first edition with the exception that our cover is hard instead of soft. 80 pages printed on Glastonbury Paper. Black cover and dust wrapper printed in red. Many illustrations of sigils etc., in text,” The Equinox’s description of the publication reads.

Despite Page setting up a new business and hiring the shop’s premises, this appears to have been the only books published by The Equinox. The company did, however, produce a card in 1975 printed with Crowley’s “Liber OZ” to commemorate the centenary of Crowley’s birth on October 12, 1975.

To advertise its books, the bookshop placed advertisements in magazines likely to appeal to fans of occult books. LedZepNews has tracked down one advert that was printed in the September 1976 edition of Seed magazine, a natural food publication, to advertise both books published by the bookshop.

The advert reads that the shop “is pleased to announce their new publications” before providing the descriptions of both books listed above.

The advert for books published by The Equinox that appeared in Seed magazine

Another advert was placed in Volume II, Number 1 of Sothis magazine that was published in 1976, according to Harper’s history of the shop in Behutet Magazine.

Publishing plans

Page and Hill had grand plans to publish further books following the initial editions.

“Our plans were to do perfect reproductions of the masterworks, matching the original typefaces, paper, and covers exactly,” Hill told Behutet Magazine. “We wanted to do the Book of Thoth, Equinox of the Gods and Magick … a luxurious edition of the Thoth deck with gold gilded edging was planned as well as an annotated Book of Changes.”

But they ran into copyright disputes as they sought to gain permission to publish works particularly by Crowley, who died in 1947 and whose publishing rights were in dispute.

Dishonest employees and constant losses

Page had succeeded in opening his occult bookshop and publishing books, but the files obtained by LedZepNews show that all was not well at The Equinox.

The first set of accounts for the shop, filed in September 1977, cover the period from June 20, 1974 until October 31, 1975. It’s in this filing that the shop’s auditors, the accountants hired to verify its figures, warned that it couldn’t be certain that the sales listed in The Equinox’s accounts were accurate because of certain “incompetent and perhaps dishonest” employees.

The shop’s first accounts show that it made a loss of £15,201 in the period up to October 1975 and owned stock worth £6,600.

Losses continued in subsequent years, with the bookshop losing £6,130 in the 12-month period up to October 31, 1976, losing £13,473 in the 12 months up to October 31, 1977 and a loss of £8,008 in the year prior to October 31, 1978.

The 1976 accounts noted that The Equinox was “dependant [sic] upon continuing finance being made available by the Parent Company”, with that company being another Page-owned business, Jimmy Page Enterprises.

By 1980, the bookshop’s continued losses had resulted in a deficit of £55,924. Page loaned the company money interest-free to cover its losses and keep the doors open.

The closing of The Equinox

After years of losses, The Equinox closed for good around 1979 when its lease on the 4 Holland Street shop ended. “It obviously wasn’t going to run the way it should without some drastic business changes and I didn’t really want to have to agree to all of that. I basically just wanted the shop to be the nucleus, that’s all,” Page told journalist Chris Salewicz in the August 4, 1979 edition of NME.

“Equinox was never designed to make lots of money but just to tick over so it could publish books,” Page continued. When asked if people may have taken advantage of this desire, Page replied: “Quite probably. Yes.”

Timothy d’Arch Smith, an occult bookseller who knew Page, said: “He had problems with the manager; I think that’s what he told me. And it all went really rather wrong. They reprinted a couple of things but I think it was really rather a disaster,” according to Wall’s book.

Wealleans said in “Trampled Under Foot” that “The Equinox didn’t last very long, probably because Jimmy didn’t pay anybody or pay the rent. It had a sort of fetid musky smell when you went in there, as if somebody was actually squatting there.”

“It was difficult to get paid. Joan Hudson was marvellously evasive and elusive, and clearly for years had protected Jimmy from anybody,” he continued. “She just said, ‘I’ve had no instructions to pay you.’ I said, ‘Well, can I speak to Jimmy or can you get a message to Jimmy?’ She said, ‘No.’ I thought that was a bit shitty. She is an absolutely ghastly woman, much hated by myself and Paul Reeves.”

Speaking to LedZepNews, Wealleans says he eventually gave up chasing Page’s accountant for money. “I didn’t get paid for it, but that was not Jimmy’s fault, that was his accountant. Once she heard my name, all bills were blocked,” he says. “She didn’t ever answer my calls or respond to invoices so I just gave up in the end.”

The Equinox today

Despite the bookshop permanently closing its doors before the 1980s, the company behind it continues to exist. The Equinox has filed annual accounts covering every year since its inception, and the company still has an interest-free loan of around £54,000 repayable to Page listed in its accounts.

And even though the bookshop has been closed for decades, two unnamed people are employed by the business, according to its most recent set of accounts.

Page occasionally comments on his bookshop project in interviews, and his last direct involvement with The Equinox appears to be a visit to the 4 Holland Street shop in 2016 when he met with gallery owner Richard Young, who now occupies the premises.

With thanks to: Thelesis Lodge, Clive Harper, Jon Wealleans and Weiser Antiquarian Books.

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5 Comments on "The history of Jimmy Page’s Equinox occult bookshop"

  1. Loved this story , had read about it before but not with all the little details.

  2. “ He’s a strange man – a nice man, basically, but very, very weird about money.”


  3. Fabulous article. I’d liked to have visited the shop it sounded interesting .

  4. Loved this article Have read Trampled Underfoot and When Giants walked the Earth epic books
    Would have liked to visit Equinox back in the day. Loved Jimmy’s adorned stage costumes which I found out later were his Sun sign, Moon sign Ascendant sign etc Having studied practiced Astrology for many years myself, can so understand his fascination with it all

  5. This is why Zeppelin are legends, dark and mysterious stuff like this. I recall Nick Kent saying that he took Steve Jones of the Sex Pistols to the shop. It had a reputation of drug connections. I have the Equinox Goetia book but the other Equinox one by Isabel Hickey seems to be rather scarce.

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