I don’t know why it took me so long to discover Persephone Books, but I’m glad I did. In an age where keywords such as ‘bestsellers’ and ‘market audience’ seem to dominate in publishing, it warms my heart to find a publisher like Persephone, which, in their own words, “prints mainly neglected fiction and non-fiction by women, for women and about women.” Their books are numbered 1 – 100, with each title carefully selected, ranging from genres such as poetry, short stories, World War I and II fiction and non-fiction, cook books, feminist works, diaries, travel, house and garden, history, country life, thrillers, science fiction, and more. What really attracts me is their overarching sensibility of focusing on women’s lives and neglected stories; stories previously deemed ‘unworthy’ of publication, stories forgotten in history, lost treasures. It speaks to the idealist in me who is tired of hearing what new things I simply ‘must’ consume and buy, and would much rather be digging more thoughtfully into what has already been created, but forgotten.
If you’d like to discover more about Persephone, they send out two issues of The Persephone Biannually (along with the Persephone Catalogue, which describes each book in loving and thoughtful detail) free of charge in the mail, so simply email them for copies. When I received my copies in the mail, I devoured them in one evening and then went online to make an order in their shop. I also emailed them to ask whether it would be okay for me to write this post and spread the word about what they’re doing.
Apart from the obvious love I have for the concept behind Persephone, I also appreciate the visual and physical design of the books themselves. All their books (except for the Persephone Classics) have a simple grey cover and an individually selected ‘fabric’ endpaper and bookmark design. Next to each book in their catalogue is an explanation of the design picked out for the endpaper, which aims to suit the mood and original time-period of the book. This relationship between design and words is an interesting one for me, especially amidst the current (and perhaps verging on obsessive) trend of minimalist design amongst my own generation, because Persephone actually extend their own simple design with a deeper understanding of our relationship with the past and what the process of recovering lost words and images means for women. In their own words again: “Fabrics are as much a part of our daily lives as furnishing and dress materials, yet we rarely see them used in any other context. However, fabric design should be celebrated for its own sake; and because it is a field in which women designers have been particularly prominent we would like to use their work whenever possible.” It’s so nice to hear an explanation of a design choice actually linked with some meaning.
Jane tweeted a few days ago that she would probably marry anyone who bought her all the books in the Persephone catalogue (which, by the way, you can do for £1000), and I’d have to agree with her. I once got a marriage proposal from a guy who reads my blog, so I hope you’re reading this (cough, cough).
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Image credits (from top to bottom): Two Women Reading by Robert Lewis Reid; Le thé au jardin (also known as Tea in the Garden) by Frederick C. Frieseke; Girl Reading in a Sunlit Room by Carl Vilhelm Holsøe; Woman Reading by a Window by Gari Melchers; Mary Reading by Edmund Tarbell; Reading. A Portrait of the Artist’s Wife by Ivan Nikolaevich Kramskoy; Girl Reading under an Oak Tree by Winslow Homer; Grace reading at Howth Bay by Sir William Orpen.