Wandering around the outskirts of Bloomsbury on Saturday took me to Persephone Books on Lamb's Conduit Street. With rough-warn floorboards underfoot and stacks of beautiful volumes along the four walls, this charming shop is any book-lover's dream.
Persephone Books was established in 1999 by Nicola Beauman who wished to print unfairly neglected works by twentieth century (mostly female) authors. The collection is purely reflective of Beauman's personal taste, which is a fine one, and is appropriately evokative of the spirit of the Bloomsbury Group of writers, artists and philosophers that included John Maynard Keynes, E.M. Forster, Leonard Woolf and his wife Virginia Woolf.
One of the volumes I picked up was actually a copy of Virginia Woolf's diaries as edited by Leonard in 1953. It perfectly encapsulates Woolf's wit and experience of writing and reading the literature of her day. What a brilliant collection! And because I couldn't resist the pleasing grey books with their beautiful individual cover linings, I also picked up Tell It To A Stranger, a collection of short stories by Elizabeth Berridge, and Hilda Bernstein's The World That Was Ours, an acclaimed autobiographical account of the apartheid regime in South Africa in the 1930s (one of Beauman's favourites).
I left feeling creative and inspired, and also honoured to have copies of these rare volumes, each one so beautifully crafted. Persephone appeals both to literature enthusiasts and aesthetes who can value the books purely for their appearance and feel. Most of all, I am looking forward to discovering illuminating prose from two authors (Berridge and Bernstein) previously unknown to me.
Persephone Books is situated at 59, Lamb's Conduit Street, WC1N 3NB.