I will gladly admit I love books. I live for books. I cannot go through life without books. And when I come across books printed in a very classic way, I want them. Sometimes I want books just because they look nice, even if I don’t plan to read them. I know, scandalous. However, you might understand this when I tell you about this fascinating publishing company.
Persephone Books out of the UK is a publishing company that only publishes books by women authors. With a heading of “Rediscovered twentieth century novels, Twentieth century female authors and Inter-war Novels”, how could you go wrong? From obscure titles like
The Making of a Marchioness by Frances Hodgson Burnett to
Saplings by Noel Streatfeild. Did you know Streatfeild wrote for adults? Neither did I.
Persephone Books boasts 96 books in their selection, each with a different end paper. This is one of the charms about Persephone Books. While their covers are a pleasing dove-gray, it is the end papers that really catch your eye. Each book has its own endpaper set to the book style, or the time period it was printed. Each is completely different, and completely charming. Along with that, each book comes with its own matching bookmark; a book mark that matches the endpaper, that is. How completely wonderful is that?
Below is the original article from February 2010’s Vanity Fair. This is the article that introduced me to the imprint.
” A Woman of Substance
PERSEPHONE BOOKS’ FEMININE MYSTIQUE
Persephone, the British imprint founded by Nicola Beauman, evokes cozy and nostalgic memories of London train rides, Yardley English Lavender, freshly brewed tea being poured into a proper china cup, a spring popping out of a slightly doggy-smelling armchair. The tiny catalogue’s 86 titles are a compendium of short stories, memoirs, cookbooks, and republished works by neglected female writers from the interwar years. Authors such as Dorothy Whipple, Marghanita Laski, Winifred Watson (whose book Miss Pettigrew Lives for a Day was made into the 2008 film), and Mollie Panter-Downes, the London wartime (and peacetime) correspondent of The New Yorker, tell stories of gentle, respectable domesticity, of outward seemliness and inner turmoil which, through the banal minutiae of a housewife’s day, unravel to who life exquisitely and often darkly revealed. “These are books where nothing and everything happens at the same time, ” offers Beauman, a Cambridge-educated mother of five. “They are an acknowledgement that the small-scale should never be overlooked. ” Frustrated by been able to find her favorite authors only in second-hand shops, Beauman, herself an author and a passionate champion of “the middlebrow,” opened Persephone in 1999 in a shabbily genteel former grocery store on London’s Lamb’s Conduit Street
Eleven years later, the imprint, with its uniform dove-gray book jackets and beautiful endpapers, lovingly handpicked by Beauman and her staff, has developed a cult following. For example, the endpaper for Doreen, a 1946 tale by Barbara Noble about a child evacuee torn from her mother, was taken from a 1940 “London Alert” print silk scarf belonging to a Persephone reader. For Dorothy Whipple’s The Closed Door and Other Stories, Beauman chose a design from a 1930s tea gown she’d found at Camden Passage Market.
“Allergic to the corporate” and admittedly “short” with people who tell her she ought to expand the business into wallpaper and greeting cards, Beauman nonetheless dreams of the day when all those British-costume-drama producers will leave Jane Austen alone, stop trying to do the definitive Sense and Sensibility, and instead look to Dorothy Whipple for inspiration. Tea gowns instead of bonnets? Oh heppy, heppy day. -Christa D’Souza”
Isn’t that brilliant? I think so. The idea completely invokes the thought of cozy nooks to read and drink tea, a vase of peonies on the little table next to your chair.
While I do love the look of these books, and wouldn’t mind owning a few, I am a bit disappointed they are paperback books instead of hardbacks.(at least they seem to be paperbacks when I look at purchasing from Amazon) I am a hardback person. However, the paperback doesn’t diminish their charm. I also am not willing to spend £12 (or whatever the dollar’s conversion of that is) Seems a bit steep for a paperback. Hence, Bookmooch I’m calling on you.
Well, I hope you all will check out this charming imprint, even if you don’t plan to order from them. The site is well worth a look, and set up in a very nice manner. I love that they show the endpaper of each book and most tell where they got the design from. Along with a very nice section of mini biographies of the authors themselves.
My concluding thought is they should have an imprint of male writers. I know that there are plenty of books written by men, but think about how interesting it would be if there was one for men titled, oh I don’t know, Apollo Books. (or anything else Greek) I think some of Rex Stout’s Nero Wolfe mysteries would be good. Or who knows what. Dark brown books with a cream label and end papers that are clearly masculine. I think it’s an interesting idea.
Well, check out Persephone Books. Trust me, I don’t think you will be disappointed. Charming doesn’t even begin to describe this company.