Persephone Books: A Publisher & Bookseller You Should Know

Persephone Books is a small book publisher (and bookshop) located at 50 Lamb's Conduit Street on the outskirts of the  Bloomsbury area of London, England.  I first heard of Persephone Books when I read a journal post (October 2, 2011) by author Kate Morton.

Outside Persephone Books

59 Lamb’s Conduit Street

She was talking about a book that she discovered while doing research: The Fortnight in September by R.C. Sherriff. It is the simple story of a modest family in 1931 England and their annual holiday to a seaside village.

Morton reflects that this book that is seemingly about nothing is actually about everything. But in addition to the pleasure of the story, was the pleasure of the physical book itself, purchased by Morton at Persephone Books when she was in London.

Morton wrote that for anyone who had not yet discovered Persephone Books, "a great joy awaits you."

Well I didn't waste any time, I visited the Persephone Books website and ordered a copy of The Fortnight in September. As Morton had indicated, this beautifully packaged book was a treasure indeed.

The endpaper for The Fortnight in September is taken from ‘Dahlias’ a 1931 design for a silk dress by Madeleine Lawrence.

Persephone Books was founded in 1999 by Nicola Beauman. Persephone publishes rediscovered twentieth-century books by neglected (mostly women) authors. On the outside the books are all the same with an elegant dove grey jacket. On the inside each is different. Each book features a unique endpaper and matching bookmark based on patterns from vintage fabrics and wallpapers.

Beauman's idea was to publish a handful of forgotten books each year. Initially sales were low. Four years in, things changed. Persephone Book No. 21, Miss Pettigrew Lives for a Day was published and became a word-of-mouth bestseller. More than 100,000 copies were sold.

This success meant that the Persephone office could relocate from their basement digs to their current Bloomsbury location. In the same premises, the Persephone shop was opened.

Persephone bookstore interior
Take a look at the complete list of Persephone books on the website. There is a description of each of the 115 books published to date. You might find something that appeals to you, or a special gift for someone this holiday season.

If you are lucky enough to visit London, stop by the shop and browse around.

While our library may not own most of the books found in the Persephone catalogue, we are happy to request copies for you through interlibrary loan. Keep in mind that these may be earlier editions of the books.

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