2019 is without a doubt a momentous year for Persephone Books. It not only marks the celebration of their twentieth anniversary, it’s also a year of uncertainty and change.
Firstly, if you haven’t yet seen The New York Times feature: “A Bookstore of One’s Own” that was published in April, stop reading this and go check it out! It’s a lovely tribute complete with beautiful photos and insight from founder Nicola Beauman.
I especially loved these quotes:
“I like books that tell me how we lived,” Beauman said. “I’m very, very interested in the novel as social history.” Also, she said: “Good writing is important to me, and that’s why we only have 132 books.”
“The idea at the beginning was that if you like one of our books, you’ll like them all,” Beauman said. “That has worked almost entirely. It’s quite rare for someone to dislike any of the books. I hate to use the word brand, but we are something of a brand.”
There’s also good news about Persephone Books’ future, at least for now. With Brexit looming, the publisher was unsure if they would be able to release their new titles as planned this autumn.
As Nicola explained in the April edition of the Persephone Letter:
[Brexit] affects us for two main reasons (and a host of minor ones): a) we print our books in Germany b) we are so depressed by the ghastly rifts in this country that we are not sure if we can continue IF we leave the EU. It’s not just the forms we would have to fill in, the bureaucracy we would have to endure (in twenty years of running Persephone Books we have in fact never encountered a centimetre or even an inch of red tape), it’s the world that would now, alas, be ours. We publish our books because we love them and want to celebrate them, and there is no other motive: it’s not the money (although we have to make enough to keep going and this we manage, just, thanks to you our lovely readers), it’s not even love of running a shop and talking to our customers. It’s simply that we think our books are outstandingly good and we want to bring them back to life. But you can’t do this in an atmosphere of strife, anger, stupid argument and so on. Just let us stay in the EU and get on with our normal lives!
Yet, since Brexit is still up in the air, their publishing plans will go ahead for the time being. This means that we will have these three new Persephone titles to look forward to in October:
1. A Room of One’s Own by Virginia Woolf (“with a new Preface by Dr. Clara Jones”)
2. Expiation by Elizabeth von Arnim (“an inexplicably neglected novel now re-published for the first time in 90 years, with a new Preface by Laura Godwin”)
3. One Woman’s Year by Stella Martin Currey (“a 1953 book of household hints, illustrations and recipes dedicated to her friend Tirzah Garwood”)
There have also been some hints in the Persephone Books Goodreads Group about a new line of editions entitled Persephone Perennials. It seems as if some changes may be in store for our beloved Persephone Books going forward. I for one, plan to appreciate and celebrate these upcoming releases and their 132 predecessors even more in the meantime.
Header Photo Credit: Charlotte Hadden for The New York Times