#RespectYourElders: Nicola Beauman, a British biographer, has turned her passion for women’s literature into a booming career in Bloomsbury, London. At age 74, she is the proud owner of Persephone Books, a publishing house that reprints “forgotten” works primarily by female authors.
Beauman studied at Cambridge, where her love of writing and fine arts flourished. Soon after graduating, she relocated to New York to become a journalist and work in an art gallery. Beauman always dreamed of penning her first book and in 1983, that became a reality when she published “A Very Great Profession: The Woman’s Novel 1914-39.” She also went on to publish biographies of Cynthia Asquith, E.M. Forster and Elizabeth Taylor.
With Persephone Books, she sought to reach other literary buffs around the world. Her plan was to reprint obscure books lost through the years and take mail orders from interested recipients. Before she knew it, her idea took off into something so much more.
Beauman was perfectly content selling her books by mail until she struck gold. One of Beauman’s books, “Miss Pettigrew Lives for a Day” by Winifred Watson, garnered so much of a following, it was made into a film.
“That changed everything for us, which was the most phenomenal good luck,” Beauman said in an interview with the Guardian.
The attention Beauman received from “Miss Pettigrew Lives for a Day” gave her the means and the fanbase to open up her very own shop in the center of London’s Bloomsbury neighborhood. Today, Beauman’s customers come to the shop knowing each book is loved and vetted by Beauman herself.
Every book comes with the Persephone Books’ signature gray cover, which has become synonymous with her shop.
“[I] had this vision of a woman who comes home tired from work, and there is a book waiting for her, and it doesn’t matter what it looks like because she knows she will enjoy it,” Beauman told the Guardian.
Beauman has no plans to retire anytime soon. She still regularly hosts events with her customers and releases new editions of out-of-print books every year.
Read more about Beauman’s shop here.