The Lovely London Bookshop That Heroes Forgotten Female Authors • Persephone Books

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Persephone Books

At Persephone Books, women run the world.

It’s said that you aren’t a true literary great until you’ve been forgotten and subsequently rediscovered. By that logic, Persephone Books is producing literary greatness at a fearsome rate. Their modus operandi is to find hidden gems written by previously neglected women writers, and restore them to their rightful place in the literary canon. It’s a noble mission, and one which is happening right in the heart of London.

Persephone Books
Photo: @kaylalkiteley

The Persephone Books store, a stone’s throw from Russell Square, is filled with nondescript grey books. It’s a muted, though still eminently Instagrammable display, but you know by now that you should never judge a book by its cover. Far more important is the content, and here a theme emerges. Persephone’s mission, since being founded by Nicola Beauman above a Clerkenwell pub in 1998, has been championing the female authors whom history has forgotten, reprinting their literature and bringing their work to a new generation of readers.

Persephone Books
Photo: @kristinamcclend

The store’s name is a deliberate nod to this: Persephone was the daughter of Zeus, and associated with both female creativity and spring (literally, a time of new beginnings). The authors featured are mostly female, and mostly wrote in the early to mid-twentieth century. There’s only one thing that binds Persephone’s collection together; as they say, “we only publish books that we completely, utterly love.”

Persephone Books
Photo: @met_createchange

They find stunning new reads in so many different ways – through word of mouth, through forgotten manuscripts, and by diligent research. Uniquely amongst London bookshops, the vast majority of their stock is works they’ve printed themselves, often given a foreword by prominent contemporary writers. Should you head down for a wander, you’re pretty much guaranteed to come across a stellar new read.

Persephone Books
Photo: @poppylovesjazz

Persephone has, at current count, published 130 previously out-of-print works, but perhaps their most notable success came early on. Book number 21 was Miss Pettigrew Lives For A Day, which became a bestseller nearly 70 years after its first appearance, and spawned a Hollywood adaptation in 2008.

Persephone Books
Photo: @whatshotblog

Fate, publishing whims, and the patriarchy may have held many of Persephone’s authors back, but one thing’s for sure. Nowadays, nothing is holding Persephone back.

Location: 59 Lamb’s Conduit Street, WC1N 3NB. Nearest station is Russell Square. See it on Google Maps.
Opening hours: 10am-6pm (Mon to Fri), 11am-5pm (Sat), 12-4pm (Sun).
Price: books cost £13.
More information: from their website.

Featured image: @girlintheyellowtaxinyc

Alex Landon

Alex Landon

Although Alex spent most of his life in Somerset and Durham, London is (almost) in his name, so he relocated to the capital and fell in love with it. Now going by the moniker 'Secret Landon', you'll find him eating all of London's street food, lost in a bookshop, or shouting at his beloved ice hockey team, the Minnesota Wild.