Thursday, 27 August 2009

Bookshops III


My third post in my Bookshops series is appropriate for Persephone Reading Week as it is Persephone Books. The Lamb's Conduit Street shop and office is one of my favourite places -not just shops or bookshops- to visit in London, not least because I emerge each time with at least one beautiful Persephone clutched to my chest. Lamb's Conduit Street is an ambient, Parisian-like street with lovely boutiques, delis. and restaurants in Bloomsbury, London, and is definitely worth a visit, not simply for the wonder that is this bookshop.

As you can see from the photograph above (apologies for the reflection but it is impossible to avoid), the door is open and welcoming and the hanging basket you see contains the Persephone catalogue and Bi-annually for you to pick up as you enter, exit, or walk by. The shop is cosy and lovely; also the main office it has a sense of bustle but also of homeliness. Light and breezy (the back door is open to the garden), Persephone Books is such a pleasure to spend time in with lots of flowers scattered around and beautifully framed posters, paintings, and fabrics on the walls to delight and engage those who browse. It is such an informal, friendly atmosphere with Nicola and Lydia engaging with customers and enthusing about books in general, not just Persephones. On occasions where Nicola (Beauman, Persephone's founder) needs to pop out quickly to one of the neighbouring shops to pick up lunch or a coffee, she will leave the shop momentarily in the hands of the customers; that is the type of bookshop Persephone Books is.

In The Shops by India Knight, she declares, "oh, the bliss of Persephone Books!" (p. 46) and the shop really is blissful. From the bookcase facing the door (seen in the photograph) the books are arranged clock-wise in order of the books' position in the catalogue. Beside each individual stack of a title are the free accompanying bookmarks (which match that particular Persephone's endpaper) and another stack of prettily tissue-wrapped copies of the book. The books are so elegant and sophisticated in appearance with one book standing open above the pile so that the colourful and beautiful end-papers are on display too, adding a vibrancy to the shop as they contrast with the pretty dove-grey.

Persephones do make wonderful gifts and I have both given and received them. The Persephone website (where the bulk of their business is conducted via mail-order worldwide) has this indispensable guide to the giving the perfect present. In her presents section from the book linked to above, India Knight says the best presents for mums are "Books from Persephone, particularly Miss Pettigrew Lives for a Day" (p. 194) and how true! Recently I was speaking to someone who purchased twenty Persephone titles as a wedding gift for a dear friend; lucky friend... although I wonder how the groom felt. As a result, I daydreamed about one day having Persephone title Cheerful Weather for the Wedding as a wedding favour for the guests but perhaps it isn't that fair to impose my addicition onto everybody else.

Later today I will be posting about my most recent visit to Persephone Books.


18 comments:

claire said...

That's so wonderful about Nicola Beauman! I dream to go there one day. For now, The Book Depository will do. Only, they don't include the bookmarks. Does Persephone Books know about this, I wonder?

This is such a lovely post, Claire. I imagined myself in the shop as I read your words. Can't wait to hear about your latest visit with Verity..

StuckInABook said...

What a lovely post, Claire.
But I'd question the idea of giving Cheerful Weather as a wedding favour - a nice title, and a great book, but the marriage in question isn't exactly a model you'd want to follow!

Paperback Reader said...

Claire, it's a lovely anecdote, isn't it?! The bookmarks are only available if you buy or order from the shop and you don't receive one via Amazon or other bookshops; it's the price to pay for buying directly from the shop! you can, however, purchase the bookmarks separately.

I'm glad my post allowed you to imagine it :). My latest visit was last month when I went to collect the prize copies; unfortunately Verity and I couldn't go to Persephone yesterday (bit of a long story) but we had great fun spying all of the Persephones in my Bookshop #1 feature (Verity had never been).

Thank you, Simon, and you make a very good point: hardly auspicious even if wedding-themed!

claire said...

Oh I thought you went there with Verity yesterday, but that's okay. I still can't wait to see what books you came home with. :)

I did get one bookmark along with the catalogue, by the way. Lol. I have a new post coming up, later in the day.

Merenia said...

Ohhh, it sounds like bliss. Perhaps its good I live on the other side of the world, otherwise the Persephone shop people might think I'm stalking them!!!

Paperback Reader said...

No, although we would have loved to :(. The shop was closing but then it may have been open again but we had changed our plans. Besides, I think it would have been a BAD idea! There are so many titles that I have been tempted by this week. I bought a pristine remainder copy of The Lost Art of Keeping Secrets as I loved that and wanted a copy of my own, so I was very, very good!

Yes, the catalogues come with bookmarks too, which is lovely! I've built up quite the collection. Looking forward to your post.

verity said...

Foyles was pretty good, as playing spot the Persephone title was so much fun. I should have taken pictures :s

I love the idea of Persephone books as a wedding present.

Paperback Reader said...

Haha, Merenia, that's my fear!

Paperback Reader said...

Next time we're going to the shop.

I thought the wedding gift would appeal to you, Verity!

Bloomsbury Bell said...

I absolutely love the Lambs Conduit Street shop - I always go with a budget and I always go over my budget!

Paperback Reader said...

I think it's impossible not to, Naomi! It's a wonderful shop.

savidgereads said...

I HAVE to go to this shop. It's just been payday and sadly (but luckily for my bank balance and TBR) I am in Birmingham and then abroad so it will have to wait until I am poorer and less tempted. Not that will stop me spending I am sure!

farmlanebooks said...

I haven't been to the Persephone shop, but after my great first experience reading them I will be tempted to pop in next time I'm in London.

Mabel said...

I like the idea of giving an appropriate Persephone title as a present. How about Bricks and Mortar as a new house gift, Family Roundabout for a new baby or even The Expendable Man on the occasion of a divorce!

Darlene said...

I love that shop! When I was there in May I stood in wonder, it was a 'pinch me' moment.

Anonymous said...

A visit to London and the Persephone Bookshop is at the top of my wish-list!!! It looks absolutely wonderful. I guess I would need my BIG wallet when I get there. :o) //Pia

Paperback Reader said...

Simon, I foresee you spending money... ha! I loved your suggestion in your blog comments about a mass visit - Simon T says we'd have to wear name tags though.

Jackie, it is such a wonderful shop to visit (tiny though!) and adds something totally unique to the book shopping experience.

Mabel, a themed title for every occasion would be wonderful! How about the forthcoming High Wages for a new job? Or of course there's A Fortnight in September for holidays.

Darlene, the first visit is a dream. I remember mine last October when I spent for ever deciding which three books I would buy and continually changing my mind!

Pia, I would advise a budget but it's very tempting and altogether too easy to go over it!

verity said...

Ha - re Expendable Man. Also perfect for a female civil partnership!