Persephone Books

Posted by Guy Pringle, 9th February 2012

On a recent trip to London I found myself not far from Lamb’s Conduit Street which is where you will find Persephone Books. Knowing that Little Boy Lost by Marghanita Laski, one of our titles for the May gathering, is published by them I took a small detour.


If you’re travelling to London and haven’t been before then it’s well worth a visit. In the few years since I was last there it hasn’t changed much – mainly because proprietor and publisher Nicola Beauman had a very clear vision of what she wanted Persephone to be.


The shop quadruples as office-cum-publishing house, conventional bookshop (albeit with only Persephone books and related products), warehouse (stacked boxes of books are artfully disguised with throws to become display areas) and event space. The latter may be author appearances – although they are sometimes difficult to stage as Persephone books are reprints of neglected classics by twentieth century (mostly women) writers, many of whom are no longer with us.


No matter, this is a holy of holies for many female bibliophiles. With a highly collectible 96 books published to date, they present their books in a distinctive “dove-grey jacket, a 'fabric' endpaper and bookmark”.


I know that one member of our reading group proudly shelves her Persephone titles together, not far from her equally loved Virago green spines. A measure of the love a publisher with an affinity for its readers can inspire.


Whether we still have Waterstones and independent bookshops by the end of the decade is open to conjecture. However, I will be very surprised if Persephone isn’t still thriving.


Mandy Jenkinson said...

Just love Persephone books - and have collected them from the start. And I too shelve them on their own dedicated shelf! They deserve no less. A new challenge has just started on ReadItSwapIt to actually read our Persephones rather than just look at them - and I started with another Marghanita Laski - To Bed with Grand Music. Really interesting read, about a woman who keeps other home fires burning rather than the traditional ones!!

Posted on Fri 10 Feb 2012 @ 12:49

Daphne Poupart said...

It was an article in one of the early issues of newbooks (4 or 5 maybe?) that introduced me to Persephone Books. I think they're beautifully produced, the end papers especially, and always interesting. It's wonderful to come across a really good "forgotten" writer and I've collected them ever since. So they are indeed proudly shelved together!

One event worth mentioning is the annual Persephone Lecture, which takes place just around the corner from the bookshop, at the hall belonging to the Artworkers Guild in Queen's Square. It's worth going for the venue alone - a wonderful Arts & Crafts interior - but the speakers are top-level and I've heard Salley Vickers, Hermione Lee, Penelope Lively, David Kynaston and last year, Sarah Dunant. Wine & cheese straws before and after the talk - I do recommend it.
Daphne Poupart, reading group member of this parish!

Posted on Sun 19 Feb 2012 @ 15:36

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