Seasonal Appeal

This may be a meandering mess as my head is clogged, and my ears are ringing just a little bit, but I am not sick enough to go to bed with no guilt.

One of my fellow travelers last week was showing me the catalogue for a charming publisher and I realized at once that the universe was hitting me over the head as this was the second time it had presented me with this jewel.  Today, as I was clearing my desk of tissue and tea cups, my hands fell upon a page ripped from a current magazine and I had to admit that my cotton-headedness has nothing to do with my cold.

Persephone Books is a British publisher specializing in books by women that had previously been out of print.  “Middlebrow” as they describe it.  Well written, good stories, though probably not “literature.”  The covers are the chicest dove grey.  And then there are the end papers.

This is from the book at the top of my list, The Home-Maker by Dorothy Canfield Fisher.  The end papers are described as follows, “The design of this Warner silk, velvet and terry material, exported to the USA during the early 1920s, was derived from a French fabric based on medieval tapestries: two birds are facing each other and away from each other – as in marriage, they are both coupled and confrontational.”  These are the type of people you want to support, aren’t they?  Rather than the large on-line retailers who make you feel your books fall with a flat, hard “thunk” when they hit your shopping cart.

Not the type of girl to choose a book on end papers alone, still Good Things in England by Florence White caught my eye for just that.  (Intrigued by the name I lost interest when I realized it is about cooking.)  These end papers are based on a fabric designed by Duncan Grant.

Duncan Grant of Bloomsbury fame.  Coincidentally, I’ve just begun a reading run on the Bloomsberries since my book club chose Mrs. Woolf and the Servants by Alison Light.  I’ve finished Bloomsbury Recalled by Quentin Bell, which gives a nice overview of the cast of characters, and have just begun Virginia Woolf, a Biography, also by Bell.

After admiring the end paper I went on a hunt to see if the fabrics are still in production.  Charleston was something of a country outpost for the group and the home’s site has a nice selection of original fabrics from the house under the heading, “Learning.”  Indeed.

What little I knew of Bloomsbury did not seem to fit these designs, though I couldn’t tell you exactly why.  Probably because of what little I knew.

Charleston does offer reprints on some of Grant’s original designs.

Including “Grapes,” which may make me like gray.  Which would be a good thing as it has been the theme of January and February around here.

No persuasion necessary to like the glimpses of the house that the site provides.

And this detail of Grant’s door, a photograph by Tony Tree, makes me want to head off round the house with my paint brush immediately.

Immediately after this cold has gone.  For daily-ish updates from Persephone Books check their blog here.

Top three images via Persephone Books, the remainder from the Charleston website.

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21 thoughts on “Seasonal Appeal

  1. How fascinating …the books, the fabrics, and end covers. I am very into reading these books. I do love gray, paired with yellows, raspberry, and blues.

  2. Wonderful, beautiful, information. But I am afraid if I don't exit quickly, more spending could ensue.
    I posted on a spectacular series of book by Penquin Classics yesterday…and promptly went nuts with my charge card! Isn't it amazing how even when we don't feel well, good design can often adequately medicate us?

  3. I was a bookseller, years ago, before I was a dilettante, and I still quiver a little at the thought of a carefully made and designed book. These are wonderful. Give in to temptation….

  4. So glad you mentioned Persephone Books. Nothing wrong with middlebrow Brit lit! I visited their shop in London because I was so curious about them; it looks exactly as you would expect and they even offered me tea! I urge you to go.
    And I have used their books to decorate my guest room.
    And thank you for linking the fabrics for sale at Charleston. Heaven!

  5. i think i have what you have. general funk, but not bad enough to be in bed, but too sick for the office.

    love the books, too. they will go on my "search for" list at BT.

  6. Oh, thank you for taking the time to go beyond the end papers to research the textiles! What a wonderful post. I need to find out more about those books — I'm so grateful for the introduction!

  7. A company that values aesthetics as well as content. Would that all thought that way.

    I've done a little exploring into Bloomsbury and admire some of the paintings that I've seen. And the interiors? Well, it gives one hope when one has "maximalist" tendencies.

    Feel better.

  8. love this post! it reminded me of a tear sheet (i cannot find) of a trompe l'oeil scene painted on a chest of drawers by bell. i love her spontaneity and choice of colors.

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