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10 August 2021

A whole book could be written about the psychological divide there used to be between having a 'profession' and being 'in trade'. People used to be snobby about the latter. This is why we adore High Wages by Dorothy Whipple: Jane, who sets up a dress shop, is being both brave and subversive; it wasn't something young women 'did'. We get a little, tiny bit of this at Persephone Books. A publisher 'in trade'? And of course this is relevant to why most publishers don't also have bookshops. It's not just that they don't want to annoy the distributor (the middle man between the publisher and the bookshop), it is more than this. Anyway. For those who find it odd that Persephone Books, dedicated to reviving forgotten women writers, is also in trade, here is proof that it is part of our genetic make-up: in Germany at the turn of the last century our ancestors ran the 'Habitat' of Breslau ie a large and flourishing ironmonger cum department store. The building is still there in Wroclaw, formerly Breslau, but then you could enter the building on three different sides, nowadays the three buildings are divided one from another. But they still exist. And the genes ditto. (This  nicely printed piece of cardboard once had a calendar at the bottom, now lost, so it's impossible to tell what date it is but presumably around 1900/1910.)

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