A Persephone Collection

One of the first posts I wrote when I started blogging last year was about Persephone Books. Along with Virago, Persephone has been the greatest discovery I’ve made as a reader. I’d read Nicola Beauman’s book, A Very Great Profession (originally published by Virago but now Persephone No 78) & it inspired me to search out some of the books she wrote about. Many of them were published by Virago but there were other authors I’d never heard of & their books were impossible to find in libraries or secondhand here in Australia.

Then, in late 1999, I was looking for the Virago website one day & came across the Persephone Books website. I was immediately interested in the titles & subjects. I’d always been interested in WWI & WWII fiction & non fiction so Mollie Panter-Downes’s short stories, Good Evening, Mrs Craven, Cicely Hamilton’s William – an Englishman & Nicholas Mosley’s Julian Grenfell became my first Persephone order.

I took advantage of the cheaper price for 3 books & two months after my first three books arrived & were devoured, I ordered three more & then three more.

Then, I set up a standing order & the result is a complete set of Persephones as you can see!

Then, the Persephone Classics were launched & I had to have those as well. I told myself they could be lending copies as I rarely lend Persephones to anyone but I was kidding myself really. They are such beautiful books & I wanted them.

I also have a complete set of Persephone Quarterlys (now the Biannual) & I often go back & look through the early editions that set out the Persephone philosophy & admire the woodcuts that were such a ffeature of those early PQs.

These are some of my favourite covers, from the earliest elegant grey covers to the colour editions with pictures that have been used on Persephone Classics or Virago Modern Classics.

Thank you to Verity & Claire for hosting Persephone Reading Weekend. It’s been a chance to look back over the years I’ve spent reading Persephones, flicking back through old PQs & Catalogues, admiring the gorgeous endpapers & elegant design of a collection of books that I love.

24 thoughts on “A Persephone Collection

  1. I do feel very lucky to have discovered Persephone so early & to have been able to collect them all as well as the catalogues & PQs. Karen, they're in Persephone number order. I've always shelved them this way, I love seeing all those cream & grey spines together.


  2. That is such a stunning collection! And I envy your complete collection of Quarterlies too 🙂
    The Classics covers are so beautiful that it is hard to choose between a grey or a Classics edition when selecting one of the few that are printed in both forms.
    Thank you so much for sharing 🙂


  3. I loved the grey covers when I first saw them but have to admit that now the Classics covers appeal a little bit more. One of the nicest things about Persephone books is the quality – such a pleasure to read. I really like how personal the choice of books feels as well.


  4. Must not be jealous. Must not be jealous. Must not be jealous.

    What a delightful post. I've managed to collect 20 over the last couple years, but I still have such a long way to go.


  5. I have 21 so far, plus the diary, about equally split between dove-grey and classics, which are much easier to acquire here in the U.S. I keep rearranging them on the shelf — I usually split between grey and classics and but sometimes I shelve them alphabetically by author, sometimes by number. Sometimes I separate the ones I haven't read yet (that section keeps getting smaller). I can't help it, I like to play librarian at home!


  6. I didn't discover Persephone until 2009; my obsession with it began that fall with a trip to England and the shop itself. But I always look forward to the arrival of the PQ. Currently I've got about 25 Persephones in my collection–they're so expensive to send to the US!


  7. Lovely, Lyn!
    I too have all the PQs and PBs, and they're fun to go through – especially when I read one of their choices from ten years ago or something, and can look back and see what was said at the time.


  8. Ohhhh I love the coloured editions. Im so jealous! I actually dont have any persephones yet. I hadnt heard of them or Viragos until I discovered your blog and hence a few others.
    And hang on…..theres a website????I need to track this down!


  9. What a totally enviable collection! I love the biannual and my catalogue is full of sticky notes and annotations. It's VERY well-thumbed…

    Did you enjoy the short story in the last biannual? About the wee boy with two, totally different grannies? I can't wait for them to bring out that book. I read the story aloud to John and he loved it too.

    Glad Abby is well! 🙂


  10. Wonderful, wonderful, wonderful! You lucky thing! I loved getting the chance to look at those early Quarterlies, thank you for showing them to us. I sadly didn't find Persephone until a few years after they started but I'm doing my best to make up for lost time!


  11. Thank you everyone for all your comments. Persephones are definitely addictive. I agree that it's like belonging to a very special bookgroup where someone carefully chooses the books just for you. I've enjoyed all the Persephones, loved some, I'm a bit lukewarm about the cookbooks, too pretty to use,not really the sort of book I enjoy reading but I love flicking through them for the bits of social history. Their books are always a wonderful discovery & if I had more time, I'd go back & reread my favourites more often.


  12. I'm sorry, I've just fallen off my chair. Wowowowowow!!! What a treat to have the entire set of Persephones!! You need to take more pictures of your shelves! 🙂


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