Continuing our amble round London's independent bookshops
Something a little bit different this week as we pay a visit to Persephone Books - publisher and bookshop. Persephone was founded by Nicola Beauman in 1999 and publishes 'neglected' fiction and non-fiction by and about women, including poetry, short stories, diaries and cookery books.
Persephone's booklist generally consists of early twentieth century works that have gone out of print; they won't republish a book unless they absolutely love it so you know they're passionate about everything they sell. Winifred Watson's Miss Pettigrew Lives for a Day - released as a film last year with Frances McDormand and Amy Adams - was one of their early (re)discoveries and might give you an idea of the gentle, or genteel, vibe surrounding Persephone.
We popped into the main office / shop on Lamb's Conduit Street one afternoon and immediately felt like we'd stepped off the streets of Bloomsbury and into someone's living room. Vases of flowers perch on various surfaces, prints hang on the walls, there's a comfy armchair and an endearing amount of clutter. Persephone's office is in the same room as the shop and they also run the mail order business from here (hence all the boxes). The building dates from the very early eighteenth century and the basement is practically unchanged, even down to the coal hole.
But what will really make any true Bibliophile tingle with pleasure are the books themselves. All the books are covered in the same dove grey velvety soft paper, but the inside 'endpapers' are gorgeous designs chosen to match the theme or date of each particular book. The Swinging London pink and orange design for It's Hard to be Hip Over Thirty is from an original Liberty fabric called Bangles, while the endpaper for Good Things in England is a jaunty yellow and brown grape print that Virginia and Leonard Woolf had made into curtains and a sofa. That's a book and a design Fact! Each book also comes with its own bookmark in its endpaper design and you can even buy books pre-giftwrapped and tied with real ribbon.
Check out their website for details of future events (in the past they've had talks and readings with lunch and wine, film screenings and cream teas, yum), see which book they'll be publishing next or read their regular newsletters. But nothing really beats a proper browse in this soft, feminist, oasis.
Persephone Books, 59 Lamb's Conduit Street, WC1N and 109 Kensington Church Street, W8. Images author's own. Know a good bookshop? Let us know on tips (@) londonist.com.