Image credit: Miranda Mills
Today, International Women’s Day 2020, we want to celebrate another woman-owned enterprise, Persephone Books. Persephone Books reprints neglected fiction and non-fiction by mid-twentieth century (mostly) women writers. Founder Nicola Beauman’s original concept was to publish a handful of 'lost' or out-of-print books every year, most of them interwar novels by women. The name Persephone was chosen as a symbol of female creativity, as well as of new beginnings (the daughter of Zeus is associated with spring).
The company began in 1998 and was initially run from a basement office in Clerkenwell. Its first book published was William – An Englishman by Cicely Hamilton, with an endpaper named Pamela designed by the Omega Workshop (attributed to Duncan Grant/Vanessa Bell), and its list of titles now exceeds 135 novels, short stories, diaries, memoirs and cookery books. The books are chosen to be fun reads, neither too literary nor too commercial and have featured prefaces from writers such as Jilly Cooper, David Kynaston and Elaine Showalter.
Image: Key 93 Design for Omega Workshops Fabric. © The Estate of Vanessa Bell, courtesy of Henrietta Garnett.
Nicola recently joined us for our talk, Text & Textiles, to discuss the endpapers in Persephone Books novels. To get technical, the endpapers of a book are the pages that consist of a double-size sheet folded, with one half pasted against a cover and the other serving as a page. The style of Persephone Books is that every book has a plain grey cover, but a graphic design for the endpaper – often taken from printed fabric. Nicola told us about the process for choosing these designs, which are tied to each novel in some way, perhaps being from the same time period, showing an image that relates to the story or in the case of the forthcoming release, having a personal connection. In this way they are rescuing not only forgotten novels, but forgotten fabric designs too, restoring recognition for overlooked women’s work.
For more information visit www.persephonebooks.co.uk
To celebrate International Women’s Day we are offering 15% off all subscriptions and magazines using code TREATYOURSELF at checkout.
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