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18th January 2022

The text of the two April books (As It Was and World Without End 1926/31 by Helen Thomas and A Well Full of Leaves 1943 by Elizabeth Myers) is ready for the printer, as are the covers, jackets and endpapers. The latter are taken from an early 1930s dress and a 1935 overall, both of which we have bought from Meg Andrews – they will be on display in the shop. Here is the dress:

We are also doing five reprints, which means that, sadly, five books are out of stock until March 21st – They Knew Mr Knight, Guard Your Daughters, London War Notes, The Persephone Book of Short Stories and The Victorian Chaise-longue. What is involved in reprinting them? Well, the first thing is to change page ii to give the date of the new edition and, now, changing the address to 8 Edgar Buildings. Also we correct typos (if you find any please do send them in to us). We print 3000 copies of the new books and 2000 copies of each of the reprints, and since each book now costs about £2.75 to print (far more for larger books, slightly less for thinner ones) enormous sums of money are involved. But somehow our ‘business model’, a rather posh term for something that just evolved, keeps on working. What isn’t working is postage prices for books being sent to the Rest of the World (we have just had to add on the shattering price of £10 for every book over 500g). But let’s try and think about more cheerful things.

First of all, after we discovered last month that The New Magdalen is now a major film (called Secret Name) there is the news that Operation Heartbreak has been filmed. Well, technically it hasn't: the film of Operation Mincemeat is based on Ben Macintyre’s book, which is factual, whereas our book, by Duff Cooper, is a novel imagining the life of the man who became ‘the man that never was’. We would also recommend Operation Mincemeat: the Musical at the Southwark Playhouse, but it’s annoying even to mention it because it’s completely sold out. The programme for the musical, and we imagine the credits for the film, take no notice of Operation Heartbreak because it is, after all, ‘only a novel’. But behind the scenes, as it were, it will have quietly contributed to the book, the musical and the film. (‘Pam’, seen here on our website, is to be played by Kelly Macdonald.)


The other book we focused on this week was William – an Englishman as we had the first Persephone Book Group in Bath. Ten people came (slightly fewer than expected because of Covid) and we had a spirited discussion about the characters of William and Griselda and the description of the first days of the war in Belgium. It’s always a bit odd discussing such harrowing subjects over Madeira, Bath Olivers and Manchego but that is an oddity that cannot be helped. Next week the morning book group talks about Mariana, which is basically less harrowing, although those with imagination think about the fact that the book ends in 1940 so there are five more years of war to endure before the chance of a happy ending. (Do get in touch if you would like to join one of the Book Groups, more information here).

So life goes on as normal in Edgar Buildings. We watched Passing, Don’t Look Up, the film of Downton Abbey, Call the Midwife and the second series of Emily in Paris. All enjoyable and the first two very thought-provoking. The Guardian had a good item in their Environment section asking people what they thought about Don’t Look Up. Basically it is unmissable. Flawed of course, but essential viewing. And the first half hour of Passing is superb, thereafter it becomes a little obvious. Everything else was like a hot water bottle and what’s wrong with that. Except a programme about Quentin Blake which was completely fascinating and also the most wonderfully made documentary. Happily it is on for a year so we shall have ample opportunity to re-watch it. This drawing is from Quentin Blake's website here.

This is sad about floor tiles in Barcelona: ‘All over the city, 19th-century apartment blocks are being made over into luxury flats. In the process a vital part of Barcelona’s heritage – its decorative tiled floors – is being dumped.’ Some people, ourselves included, find this extremely upsetting.

Jen Campbell chose The Hopkins Manuscript as one of her ten books of the year here (thirty minutes in, although all her choices are interesting and she talks about them SO well).

The house lived in by Sylvia Townsend Warner and Valentine Ackland is for sale.

A reader in California sent us a photograph of this Fourth Century BC eight and a half inch terracotta head of a young girl, thought to be either Persephone or her mother Demeter. It was apparently looted from a site near Rome and taken to New York, where it has now been seized and one hopes it will return to Italy.

The Director of The Landmark Trust, Anna Keay, sent a wonderful letter to Landmark supporters in which she said: ‘As you all know so well, Landmark is essentially a romantic endeavour [we love this phrase]. We save historic buildings considered lost causes by others, go to great lengths to repair and re-inhabit them, and make them into houses which, in some cases, only the eccentric would love. In a world of business cases and investment appraisals, it shouldn’t work – but it does. That it does is because of you, our supporters. It is your sense of adventure, your concern for the value not just the price, your generosity and your belief in the whole enterprise that makes a notion as absurd as Landmark possible.’ Substitute Persephone for the seventh word and we could not have put it better ourselves. We too repair and re-inhabit (re-print) books for people with a sense of adventure, and a notion as absurd as Persephone is only possible because of our readers’ generosity. (And how happy we are that there are now a hundred Persephone novels in some Landmarks, with more to follow if these are a success.)

There was an interesting and energising interview with one of our preface writers, Rachel Reeves, here.

And after its Bristol run, the fantastic play/musical of Wuthering Heights opens at the National Theatre on February 3rd.

Finally, some annoying news: we last put the price of our books up (from £12 to £13) in October 2017. Over that period of four, four and a half years in April, inflation has been fourteen per cent (ie. a £10 book in 2017 should be £11.40 now). So we are very sorry indeed but on March 1st the cost of our books will be £14 (for the grey books) and £11 (for the Classics). When they are bought from us there will of course be the usual reduction for three and so they will be £36 for three (instead of, at the moment, £33).  All we can say is that in order to continue to print on the best possible Munken paper, with full colour endpapers and a separate grey jacket, and using dispersion binding (so that the book lies flat) – needs must.

Nicola Beauman

Persephone Books

8 Edgar Buildings, Bath



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