Wednesday, 9 July 2008
More Persephone chat today - because the other day I went to the event I forewarned you about, at Mostly Books in Abingdon. Nicola Beauman, doyenne of Persephone (is doyenne complimentary? It's meant to be) gave a lovely talk on setting up Persephone in 1999, the highs and lows, and the Persephone Classics venture. The room was full with interested people - it was especially nice to meet Moira and her husband, so hello to you both! - and I am never happier than when surrounded by bookish folk. Such a joy to be able to hear and talk about a publishing house which I love so dearly, and books I cherish.
I've heard Nicola talk before, but it is always a pleasure. (Something I note is that, whilst when I was 18 and had loooong hair, people didn't want to catch my eye at a Persephone event, here I obviously looked a lot less off-putting!) If you ever have the chance to hear about Persephone from the driving force behind it, do take it. From Nicola's time with Virago and her book A Very Great Profession (recently republished by Persephone), to setting up Persephone Books, to the surprise bestseller of Miss Pettigrew Lives For A Day to the Persephone Classics, it is a fascinating journey which I hope to see in her biography one day...
Persephone Classics is where Persephone lovers form two factions. They are further, slightly cheaper, reprints of Persephone's bestsellers. The iconic dove grey covers, concealing beautiful endpapers using fabric from the year the book was published, are replaced with pictures of the covers. The content inside is identical. I confess, I was a little wary when I first heard about the venture - but then I saw this cover for Dorothy Whipple's Someone at a Distance.
It is a wonderful book, both very well written and also addictive, which don't always go hand in hand - and what an incredible cover. I think it's the most beautiful book I own, not just to look at, but to hold and to read.
Some of the audience at Mostly Books were resolute that they wouldn't buy a non-grey cover; some were entranced; all were grateful to Nicola for bringing these wonderful books back into print. It's flared up my collectors' instinct again - so many I've yet to own! One of these days I'll give a list of the ones I've read and those I own, and will await your recommendations...
Thank you Nicola, and thank you Mark for organising such a wonderful evening.