Persephone Pairs Books With Textiles

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Persephone Books is a British publisher (with a shop in London) that reprints overlooked fiction and nonfiction works by, for, and about women. Though all the books have plain gray covers, the endpapers are printed with vintage textile designs, each chosen to represent a character or the overall the aesthetic or time period of the work. Some pairings are uncanny, others devastaing, but all are inspired. I love the tangible sense of history this creates.

As a vintage fabric aficionado I’d have a hard time choosing amongst the 81 titles for the story alone — the fabrics would definitely influence my decision! Of course I’d have to start with all the Lucienne Day designs. Fortunately there are plenty of books where I am drawn in by both the fabrics and the subject matter … but If I were judging books solely by their fabrics, here’s what else I’d pick:

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Someone at a Distance by Dorothy Whipple: The 1950s linen furnishing fabric by Ashley Havinden is based on drawings done in the 1930s when Ellen furnished her house; it combines a menacing feel with a hint of the domestic.

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Farewell Leicester Square by Betty Miller: The fabric is ‘Black Goose’ (1938) by EQ (Elsie) Nicholson, a cotton hand printed with lino blocks; the sky-blue background is strikingly beautiful and the flying geese have overtones of the ‘black sheep’ of the family.

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Miss Pettigrew Lives for a Day by Winifred Watson: The endpaper is, like that for Saplings, a 1938 furnishing fabric by Marion Dorn; it is an elegant and light-hearted repeat patttern on a background of pale linen.

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There Were No Windows, by Norah Hoult (a novel about memory loss): ‘Treetops’, a screen printed cotton and rayon furnishing fabric designed by Marianne Mahler in 1939 and produced by Edinburgh Weavers.

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The Expendable Man by Dorothy B Hughes (a thriller): Endpapers taken from a 1963 fabric by Friedlinde de Colbertado Dinzl

This makes me wonder which fabrics I would choose to represent my favorite books (hmmm … what an idea for a future swap or post series!)

Persephone titles can be ordered through their website and shipped anywhere in the world.

2 Comments

  1. Perlin says:

    I’m a devoted reader of True Up and was excited to see you mention this company.

    Our family was surprised when they contacted my grandmother about republishing her father’s book ‘They Can’t Ration These’ (#54). We were thrilled and I’m even more excited to learn the story of the endpapers. They used a potato print fabric from 1940; how clever!

    Thanks for this piece!

  2. Concha says:

    I have a dozen of Persephone books (I’m looking at them just now) and I love all the endpapers.

    I’ve been at the Persephone bookshop in London last year and they actually sell some of vintage prints that have been reproduced on the books!